What is freedom? The term is misused, the concept is misunderstood, and the ideology is misappropriated. Yet, freedom in Christ is foundational to the Christian who has been freed from the bindings of sin. There was a man who so convicted by sin, wrestled with this concept and he would spend hours a day in confessional. Yet, as the Holy Spirit worked, Martin Luther was not only converted, but he came to revel in freedom in Christ.
2017 marked the 500th anniversary of what is considered the tipping point towards reformation: Luther’s bold act of nailing 95 theses to the door of the Church of Wittenberg. The remembrance of that event initiated a year of conferences, teachings, and book releases covering those events and the man of those events. Included in those was the Gospel Coalition’s conference in Indianapolis, Indiana in which speakers delivered sermons from each chapter of Galatians. Luther is well-known for his commentary on Galatians, so the task seemed a fitting remembrance. From that conference, comes the book, Christ Has Set Us Free, edited by D.A. Carson. Christ Has Set Us Free is the written adaptation of those 2017 sermons in which each chapter of Galatians occupies a chapter in the book. Therefore, readers will become acquainted with the teachings of John Piper, Sandy Wilson, Peter Adam, D.A. Carson, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Timothy Keller. Attached to the beginning and end of the book though, include introductory material (Thomas Schreiner), an analysis of the reformed interpreters of Galatians (Gerald Bray) and finally a breakdown at the movements of legalism and antinomianism in light of Galatians (Sinclair Ferguson).
Before delving too far into the book itself, readers should be aware of three theological distinctives either present or at least advocated by specific individuals. These include the following:
- Reformation: The authors have deliberately considered Galatians in light of the reformers views. They have not necessarily asserted every position advocated by the reformers, but only read the epistle in light of them.
- Dating: In the principle chapters, the book proposes a Southern Galatia reading and therefore places the date of the letter around AD 48 somewhere around Acts 15:1-35. However, Thomas Schreiner does well at defining how little this view impacts actual interpretation.
- Mirror Reading: Finally, when it comes to the historical context, specifically when it comes to identifying opponents to the gospel, the book utilizes mirror reading as proposed by John Barclay.
These areas and the conclusions made in the book will generally not be an issue for most believers. Yet, it is helpful to know of their presence within the book.
Insights into the book of Galatians are not significant and so those searching for a deeper commentary on the text will not find it here. Yet, the contributors take on some major overarching aspects that many Christians wrestle with. D.A. Carson and Thabiti Anyabwile in particular are helpful as they tackle topics of slavery vs. freedom and maintaining gospel integrity (speaking/writing on Galatians 4 and 5 respectively). Therefore, for many Christians Christ Has Set Us Free is an accessible, readable, and applicable resource.
There are two minor areas of concern that come from within this book. The first comes from contributor Sandy Wilson, who appears to utilize the word ‘Christian’ in a lenient way (most notably referring to Mother Teresa as a Christian hero). Such a point should not be judged too harshly because it is not clear as to whether or not he is judging them to be Christians or using it as a general term as society does. The lack of clarity though does leave at least minimal room for concern. The other area of concern is the reliance upon the teachings of the reformation. While agreeing with the introductory material that the Reformation era has shaped how we now look at Galatians and it is impossible to look at the epistle apart from that, there should be a level of caution in prioritizing certain influences. For the most part, these areas will do little to offset the value that comes from reading this book.
Ultimately, the editor’s agenda is to be a resource for pastors and teachers in order to help them in interpreting and applying Galatians. Because of the broadness of that statement, Christ Has Set Us Free is certainly a resource for pastors and teachers. Yet, I would say that for those teaching through Galatians there are commentaries that do this job better, while this resource is better suited towards the general believer endeavoring to learn and grow. While it is a book that one does not need to dissuade Christians from working through, it would not be a primary choice. If you desire to pick up this book, pay special attention to the later chapters of the book as they will prove most beneficial.
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of it.