Galatians: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. By Thomas W. Finley. NP: NP, 2016. 162 pp. Paperback, Free.
Thomas Finley has written this commentary on Galatians and offers it free of charge. It can be downloaded for free at www.seekersofchrist.org.
It caught my attention for two reasons. The first is that it is written from a Free Grace perspective. The other is that Finley wrote it to help Christians in countries other than the United States. In many of these countries there is a scarcity of Christian literature (p. 4). He is trying to meet a real need among Christians that live in these other countries. Both of these points make this book different from most books written today.
Throughout the book there are sections called “Life Applications” (e.g., p. 40). They provide spiritual help for living the Christian life. They can be described as practical applications of the truths found in Galatians.
Finley believes the letter was written to the churches Paul visited in his first missionary journey and was Paul’s first letter written in the New Testament. Paul is addressing the problem of “Judaizers” who were attacking the good news of grace. Grace is the means by which a person is saved from hell but it is also the means by which believers are to live. Since the recipients of the letter are already believers, the main stress in Galatians is on grace for Christian living (p. 9). Finley recognizes that the word “gospel” in Galatians is not restricted to how a person is eternally saved (p. 16).
It doesn’t take long to see the Free Grace view expressed in this commentary. Commenting on Gal 1:8-9 in reference to preaching a false “gospel,” Finley points out that being accursed is not equal to being eternally condemned. Instead, it refers to some kind of temporal judgment from God (p. 19).
Finley takes Gal 2:20 as one of the “most important verses in the Bible” that deals with Christian living. The successful Christian life is a rejection of trusting in one’s own power and living in dependence upon Christ (p. 37).
In a life application section on Gal 3:1-5, Finley discusses the difference between living by the law and living by grace (p. 47). Living by the law is natural for us as we have a natural inclination to live according to rules and traditions. Living by grace means focusing on Christ and learning from Him and seeking to know Him more intimately.
In Gal 4:11, Paul says that he fears for the Galatians, that he may have labored in vain in their regard. No doubt, some would say that Paul is concerned that the Galatians might not “really” be believers. Finley, however, takes the correct view that Paul is concerned that his labor there will not have its intended result, which is Christian maturity. Or, as Paul puts it, the goal is that Christ would be formed in them (pp. 67-68).
Paul refers to being “severed” from Christ is 5:4. Finley also correctly states that Paul knew the readers were believers and therefore this cannot be a reference to being eternally condemned. Instead, Paul is saying that if a Christian goes back to the law as a means of living the Christian life, he has “lost his vital fellowship with Christ.” It means that believer is not being led by Christ or strengthened by Him (p. 78).
Finley sees a difference between entering the Kingdom of God and inheriting the Kingdom (Gal 5:21). He takes the position that inheriting the Kingdom refers to reigning with Christ. However, he takes the view that this only involves the Millennial Kingdom. Reigning with Christ is a reward, but will only apply during the first 1000 years of Christ’s rule (pp. 98-99).
The principle of sowing and reaping in Gal 6:7-8 also does not refer to being eternally saved. People, both believers and unbelievers, can reap what they sow in this life. Finley believes, however, that the emphasis here is what the believer will reap at the Judgment Seat of Christ. He argues this point, in part, because Paul says “in due time” we will reap what we sow. The faithful believer will reap rewards when he stands before Christ (pp. 116-17).
The book ends with four appendices. They deal with law and grace principles, the Millennial Reign of Christ on earth, the reward of the birthright of the firstborn, and the eternal security of the believer (pp. 123ff). The section on eternal security is based on a booklet written by others. This booklet, unfortunately, uses the phrase “true” believer while discussing Rom 8:28-39, which can lead to misunderstanding and it is difficult to determine what the original author meant. Many use the phrase to mean that if a person is “truly saved” he will persevere in good works. It is clear, however, that the author believes in the eternal security of the believer and that good works are related to rewards and not eternal salvation.
While not all Free Grace people will agree with all the details in this book, it is always great when a commentary is written from a Free Grace perspective. Many people look for such material. Hopefully, it will be used by those who have limited access to Free Grace material. I highly recommend the book.
Kenneth W. Yates
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society