Christianity is a miracle faith. It’s not just a set of doctrines or a moral code. Christianity is marked by “extraordinary events manifesting divine intervention in human affairs” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition).
Paul refers to one of the greatest in this next text of his Galatians letter; but he first concludes his teaching about justification by faith begun in his rebuke (1:6 and following).
We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’
know that a man is not justified by observing the law,
but by faith in Jesus Christ.
So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus
that we may be justified by faith in Christ
and not by observing the law,
because by observing the law no one will be justified.
“Justified” (Greek, dikaio-o) refers to one’s right standing before God–more a legal term than an experiential one. Paul’s meaning is crystal-clear. ” . . . a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” Jewish Christians (professed) visited the Galatian churches insisting that right standing with God required faith in Jesus Christ plus circumcision and adherence to the laws of Moses. Paul responded by rebuking the Galatians for turning to a “different gospel” (1:6).
Since observing the biblical law of Moses doesn’t achieve justification, no other law or rule or system does either. Being good, going to church, helping the poor, praying regularly are all good behaviors, but they’re not meritorious. Faith alone in Christ alone alone results in justification.
That’s both bad news and good. Bad, because it punctures my ego (I can do nothing to merit being right with God!) and compels me to confess I’m a lawbreaker, a criminal according to God’s moral code. So put me in an orange suit, shackle my ankles and lead me to my cell! Good, because even a little child can trust. The “faith-bar” is low. About as low on the ground as a grain of mustard seed.
This is the gospel, full-of-wonder–the “courtroom” side of it. A little more “legal” before the miracle . . .
If, while we seek to be justified in Christ,
it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners,
does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!
If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
That question may imply what the “Judaizers” claimed: Justification by faith alone (and not good works) provides license to sin. I imagine Paul writing “Absolutely not!” in all caps (and shaking his head at the ludicrous idea). To add obedience to law is to rebuild a system of good works and prove yourself (again) a law-breaker, because you will inevitably break God’s law. Paul knows the law condemns him. So, as far as law is concerned, he’s a dead man walking. But God has a purpose in law’s death sentence: “so that I might live for God.”
Now the great miracle and an explanation of how the law “kills” so we might live for God . . .
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,
but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body,
I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I do not set aside the grace of God,
for if righteousness could be gained through the law,
Christ died for nothing!
God’s law condemns me–a law-breaker–to death. Christ, who never broke God’s law, died as a law-breaker in my place. Thus, Paul writes, “I (the old “I” trying to earn right-standing with God) have been crucified with Christ and I (the old “I) no longer live. Christ’s death for me was also my death (to justification by obedience) with him. So “I” no longer live. Now here comes the great miracle . . .
” . . . but Christ lives in me.” Wait! Stop! Think! How can the incarnate Christ, who ascended bodily to reign from heaven, live in me? It’s not the incarnate Christ but the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit who indwells me. All are one in the same. In Romans 8:9, Paul writes . . .
Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ,
does not belong to Christ.
In other words, the internal mark of a Christ-belonger is the Spirit of Christ. A person who belongs to Christ through faith in him, has the Spirit of Christ. ” . . . Christ (the Spirit of Christ) lives in me.” It’s the Spirit of Christ who enables faith in Christ. It’s the Spirit of Christ who sanctifies. It’s the Spirit of Christ who bears fruit. It’s the Spirit of Christ who gives gifts. The Spirit of Christ is Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, we live the Christian life by faith in Christ, like a little child trusting the One who loved us and showed it by giving himself for us. This is the gospel of God’s grace. Trying to religiously work for righteousness is anti-grace and an arrogant implication that Christ died for nothing.
For some of us, the miracle of “Dead and Alive (Jesus and Me)” blows right over our head. We don’t ponder it deeply, so Galatians 2:20 becomes little more than an empty religious chant. For others, the miracle is too familiar. We’ve known it since childhood when we “asked Jesus into our heart.” No longer do we stand in awe of the wonder. Christ lives in me!
Above is a video.
A simple song to sing.
Scripture-words to ponder.
An affirmation of faith to repeat.
An offering of praise to make.
To the Christ who died for us
that he might live in us
and transform us
from one degree of his glory to another.