A Message of Freedom

Book Review

Galatians for You
by Timothy Keller
Good Book Company (2013), 208 pages
FES Library book call number: 227.4 KEL


Galatians is often associated with Paul’s head-on response to the false gospel taught by others who came after him. Such association, along with Paul’s writing style (which is often perceived as confusing and difficult), may hinder a more enriching understanding of the letter, limiting it to simply a mediation of a clash between the Gospel and Jewish customs. However, this issue stretches much deeper with many implications in our lives as the people of God. This is what Timothy Keller explores in his book, to bring us “face to face with the Gospel” through Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.

To Keller, the false gospel essentially teaches us about righteousness gained through our works. It becomes the central theme throughout the book, in which Keller repeatedly contrasts work-righteousness (false gospel) and grace (true Gospel). Keller consistently pays attention to the Greek words to explain the key points in each verse he focusses on, giving us a much richer understanding which may have been lost in translation. He then points out areas to which those phrases can be related. Two emphasis stand out. The first is the issue on identity and freedom: work-righteousness, though may seem to elevate our position, robs and downgrades our status to that of slavery, and puts us in a bondage to perform. The second is the issue of security and relationship with others: the urge to perform, born through work-righteousness, tends to produce this constant self-evaluation of where we are in relation to others around us. The superiority or inferiority produced hinders the flourishing of true and genuine relationships. However, the grace of the Gospel lifts our status as the children of God and allows us to live in freedom from performance, making it possible for genuine and deeper relationships amongst the people of God to thrive.

It is not uncommon for us to fall into extremes when applying biblical principles into our lives, but I highly appreciate Keller’s cautious approach in charting the way of lives from the key lessons. He does it by discussing both extremes and showing their inadequacies, pointing out how each extreme neglect certain parts of the Gospel. Readers are then invited to come face to face with the Gospel and find its implication in Christian living, for the Gospel should not only be the way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven: it should be the everything of the everyday Christian life.


Reviewed by

Darryl Andryan Putra
Head of FES Indonesian Ministry