Critique of “Paul’s Spirituality in Galatians” by Adam McClendon

Written by Josiah Nichols

April 5, 2023

Paul’s Spirituality in Galatians: A Critique of Contemporary Christian Spiritualities by [P. Adam McClendon, Donald S. Whitney]


Christian Spirituality. The following was originally presented to Liberty University as a book critique for partial completion of the Capstone Course in the J. Rowling’s MDiv program. The book being critiqued is Paul’s Spirituality in Galatians by P. Adam McClendon. It is available on Logos and for $31.

Introduction Summary

Adam McClendon seeks to prove the limits of Christian spirituality by examining and explaining Galatians 2: 20.[1] The introduction to this study begins with a biblical analysis of Christian spirituality using the original Greek to emphasize biblical spirituality is life lived by the power of the Holy Spirit.[2] To contrast this truth, McClendon shows the current cultural understanding of spirituality as a life that lines up with professed faith, personal experience, and practice.[3] McClendon also shows the church has also become more broad in its understanding of spirituality to incorporate many of the beliefs the culture has about spirituality.[4] McClendon’s argument is Christians should build their understanding of spirituality on the foundation of the Scriptures.[5] To demonstrate this, the author said he would exegete Galatians 2: 20 and apply its truths to Christian spirituality.[6]

Chapter 1 Summary

In this chapter McClendon explains the first part of Paul’s phrase, “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2: 20a, ESV).[7] He claims Paul’s argument is that the cross is central to the theology of Christian Spirituality.[8] He argues this understanding in contrast with what many consider to be spirituality, including people who propose teaching which is beyond Scripture or contrary to the Bible.[9] To support the claim of the cross being the center to all Christian theology, he gives the context of the passage in 15 – `19.[10] McClendon shows unity in Christ’s death brings about justification, sanctification, and a new identity which cannot be touched by sin.[11] He concludes the chapter with addressing the false teaching of feminism in that it runs contrary to the theology of self-sacrifice in the cross, and that it runs contrary to the truth that the Bible is the foundation for all of truth and living.[12]

Chapter 2 Summary

McClendon exegetes the second part of Galatians 2: 20 in this chapter, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2: 20b). He explains this passage shows not only the crucifixion is central to Christian theology, but also the person of Christ is central.[13] Christ is necessary to secure the believer’s salvation and sanctification.[14] This is primarily done through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit representing and pointing to Christ in the believer.[15] He explains the above mentioned passage as believers no longer have the sinful, selfish identity one used to have apart from Christ.[16] Instead, believers now have the identity of one influenced by Christ dwelling within them who gives them the power of living the life of holiness.[17] In light of this hope, McClendon contrasts this with the Pentecostal view of the second baptism of the Holy Spirit, proving the Pentecostal view is unbiblical.[18] He concludes this chapter with saying the union with Christ in the believer allows the Christian to be empowered by the influence of Christ for sanctification.[19]

Chapter 3 Summary

This section seeks to exegete the third part of Galatians 2: 20, “And the life I now live in the flesh” (v. 20c, ESV).[20] This chapter seeks to show the new life in Christ is not without a battle between what is left of the old sinful nature and the new nature in Jesus Christ.[21] This battle is the dynamic between being unified with Christ and living in the flesh.[22] This short chapter shows this truth runs contrary to the Wesleyan theology of total sanctification or “entire sanctification;” which teaches one can be so sanctified they cease to sin before glorification.[23] This notion is squelched by this passage talking about the living a life in the flesh, many other passages of Scripture, and 1 Thessalonians 5: 23.[24] McClendon concludes with saying believers will always battle with the remaining sin in their fallen bodies.[25]

Chapter 4 Summary

This passage seeks to exegete the last part of Galatians 2: 20, “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (v. 20d, ESV). McClendon’s argument is Christians are not only justified by Christ, but also empowered as well as motivated by being unified in Christ, indwelt by His Spirit.[26] The main theological heresy McClendon refutes is the prosperity gospel.[27] He does this by showing the goal of the Christian life is not health and wealth, but dying to self, sin, and the world so that one can live a holy life.[28] He concludes with saying what he proposed, that Jesus justifies and empowers believers to live holy lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Introduction Response

I agree with McClendon’s approach to understanding Christian spirituality. It cannot be understood outside of the comprehensive teaching of inerrant Scripture (1 Timothy 3: 16 – 17). It is perfect for training the man of God in the way of God (Psalm 19: 7 – 14). The way the Christian grows in holiness is by properly understanding the Scriptures and surrendering one’s mind to the Holy Spirit (Romans 12: 1 – 5). McClendon was right about Galatians 2: 20 not being a comprehensive verse on the subject; however, it is a good starting point. A repeated theme about Christian spirituality is it is done by the power of the Holy Spirit and the cross of Jesus Christ (Romans 8: 1 – 11).  As a Biblicist, I believe all our theological convictions should be grounded in the clear teaching of Scripture, accepting all of its teachings even if they offend the intellect, pride, or previous understandings.

Chapter 1 Response

I agree with McClendon’s understanding of this passage. He does a good job of demonstrating from the text and context what Paul means when he says he has been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2: 20a). Other passages of scripture correlate with this understanding of the believer’s unity with Christ’s crucifixion (Romans 6: 1 – 5, 8: 1 – 5). I also agree with McClendon that feminism is a menace to the church. Feminists demanding women not submitting to their husbands directly contradicts the clear teaching of Paul in stating wives should submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5: 22). This represents the church submitting to Christ (v. 24). Now, on the other hand, husbands are supposed to self-sacrificially love their wives (v. 25). This means women should not be abused; which is probably why feminism arose in the first place, other than it being the sin of Eve (Genesis 3: 16b). Christian love demands we self-sacrificially love one another for the glory of God (John 15: 13).

Chapter 2 Response

I agree with McClendon that unity with the person of Christ is also necessary to Christian spirituality (Romans 5: 17). It is even present in the prayer of Jesus when He asks that believers be one, and He be in them (John 17: 23). The reason Christians should greet one another warmly is because we are all in Christ (1 Peter 5: 4). Christians all have gifts through the Holy Spirit because the Spirit unifies the believers as one into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:1 – 13). I also agree that a second baptism of the Holy Spirit is baloney. One can see in the Scriptures the believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit at belief; thereby securing their salvation for all eternity (Ephesians 1: 13 – 14).

Chapter 3 Response

I also agree with McClendon’s understanding of the third part of the verse. All believers, no matter how holy they are, struggle with the flesh and temptation (1 John 1: 8 – 10). It is proven by the apostle Paul in Romans 7 that believers cannot overcome sin by their flesh and the works of the Law (Romans 7: 1 – 25). Only Jesus Christ can help the believer overcome sin’s power; however, there will always be a struggle between the residual fallen nature in the body and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8: 1 – 11). This more than shows the Wesleyan theology of entire sanctification is garbage. In fact, it is worse than garbage, it is toxic waste. It makes some believers better than others and those who continually struggle with sin helpless. It spits in the face of 1 John 1: 8 – 10.

 Chapter 4 Response

I agree with McClendon in that believers are not only justified by Christ in his atonement and unity with Him, but also are enabled to life holy lives by the Holy Spirit. Believers must continually exercise faith in the midst of trials (Revelation 2: 10). Yet, the Holy Spirit enables the believer to faithfully continue to the end, giving them saving faith, and sealing their salvation in eternity (1 Peter 1: 3 – 5). Christians cannot do it by their own power, but only through the grace of God (Ephesians 2: 8 – 10). Believers who begin faithfully must remain in the faith until the end, being enabled by God to do so (Philippians 1: 6).


McClendon’s book is a good primer on Christian spirituality as presented in the scriptures. Pastors and students of the Word would benefit from this work. It teaches basic biblical truth that will benefit the growing believer.

If you want more biblical resources on studying the Scriptures, check out the store at There are also a lot of other articles on the website to encourage you to dive deeper into God’s Word. Please also check out Apologetics Live at, where Andrew Rappaport, Anthony Silvestro, and Justin Pierce answer your questions and teach you how to defend the faith. It is on from 8pm – 10pm EST. Also, do not forget to check out the Rapp Report, where you can hear the teaching of Andrew Rappaport and the Christian Podcast Community. Lord bless you.

[1] Adam McClendon, Paul’s Spirituality in Galatians: A Critique of Contemporary Christian Spiritualities (Eugene, Oregon, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015), 5.

[2] Ibid., 1.

[3] Ibid., 3 – 4.

[4] Ibid., 4.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 5.

[7] Ibid., 8 – 36.

[8] Ibid., 8.

[9] Ibid., 8-9.

[10] Ibid., 10 – 15.

[11] Ibid., 15 – 18.

[12] Ibid., 19 – 36.

[13] Ibid., 37.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid., 38 – 39.

[17] Ibid., 39 – 49.

[18] Ibid., 49 – 59.

[19] Ibid., 74.

[20] Ibid., 75.

[21] Ibid. 75 – 103.

[22] Ibid., 75.

[23] Ibid., 85.

[24] Ibid., 93 – 103.

[25] Ibid., 103.

[26] Ibid., 129.

[27] Ibid., 125.

[28] Ibid., 126.

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