Dr. J.V. Fesko, Academic Dean, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary California, and minister at Geneva Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is the first commentator to be published in the new expository commentary series from Tolle Lege Press, The Lectio Continua Expository Commentary on the New Testament (LCECNT). As an expository commentary, the volume is composed of 22 of Dr. Fesko’s sermons on Galatians. Preaching through the entirety of the letter to the churches in Galatia, Fesko aims to unpack the Apostle Paul’s defense of the true gospel against the false teachers in Galatia.
At the outset, Fesko paints a broad picture of all that is to come with a helpful introductory chapter where he identifies the main themes of Galatians as justification, sanctification, and eschatology (the study of last things). Additionally, touching upon the historical background and circumstances that arose at the time of composition, Dr. Fesko gives the reader an accessible understanding of the contextual issues at hand without being over-technical.
Moving through the text, Fesko provides a section by section exposition of the letter. As is one of the aims of the Lectio Continua series as a whole, the commentary avoids the technicalities of more academic commentaries, and without diminishing substance, provides the reader with a faithful explanation of the text. Certainly, at this point, Dr. Fesko’s approach to exposition is a training manual of sorts for biblical communicators as it relates to the often difficult ability to interact with scholarship, historical voices, differing interpretations/objections, etc., and yet remaining articulate, balanced, coherent, and practical. The textual commentary is thus edifying, engaging, and homiletically instructive.
In terms of the major themes addressed in the commentary and mentioned above, several points are worth mentioning. Fesko’s understanding of the doctrine of justification is of the traditional Reformed perspective, specifically citing the Westminster Confession’s definition. He briefly interacts with the New Perspective (NPP).
In regard to the doctrine of sanctification, Fesko offers substantial discussion concerning the Spirit’s role in the sanctification of the believer and the import of our union with Christ. Fesko writes at one point, “Paul drives us to our union with Christ and the work of the Spirit. As Paul explains, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). In other words, both justification and sanctification come by faith alone in Christ. We are no more sanctified by our good works than we are justified by them. Rather, we look by faith to Christ alone and he saves. As Paul makes clear, such an approach to redemption in no way mitigates the believer’s need to produce good works,. Instead, Paul desires to have the Galatians recognize that Christ is the source of their salvation—both in justification and sanctification.”
Perhaps a mark which sets this commentary apart, and which is remarkably helpful, is the time which Dr. Fesko devotes to the importance of Paul’s understanding and use of the OT within his argument. Drawing on several redemptive-historical, new creational and eschatological motifs, Fesko shows the immense importance of understanding the overall redemptive work of God in Christ. Specifically, in regard to the fruit of the Spirit, “walking by the Spirit”, and the significance of circumcision, Dr. Fesko explains how each are foreshadowed in the OT and understood in NT perspective as they relate to God’s overall plan of redemption.
NOTES ON INTERPRETATIVE POSITIONS
Dr. Fesko writes from a thoroughly Reformed perspective. The redemptive-historical nature of Paul’s argumentation is explained clearly, and the incorporation of the significance of the OT text is both noted and explained throughout. Dr. Fesko concludes that “the Israel of God” in Galatians 6 is indeed the church as he states that, “only those who belong to Christ are properly called Israel.” Regardless of where you may come down on this interpretation, the explanation that Dr. Fesko provides for his interpretative conclusion is wonderfully concise, theologically helpful, and practically encouraging.
In sum, Fesko’s volume is a largely helpful commentary on the book of Galatians. Whether pastor, professor, or layperson, all will indeed benefit from this treatment of the Galatians text. Overall, this commentary is soaked with gospel goodness. It’s solid, simple, and straightforward. Not only will it help you think more deeply about the gospel, but I believe those who read it will become better equipped at speaking more clearly and substantially about what God has done for us in Christ. It certainly lives up to the aims of the Lectio Continua series in that it is, “rigorously exegetical, God-centered, redemptive-historical, sin-exposing, Gospel-trumpeting and teeming with practical application.” Insofar as expository commentaries are concerned, it is superb. I highly recommend it.
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NOTE: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher for the purpose of review, and was under no obligation to offer a positive review.