Getting Galatians 2:20 “into the Bloodstream” -- Part One

Faith in the Son of God is our ‘Lifestyle’

Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives within me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

Galatians 2:20 encapsulates in a single sentence the more comprehensive explanation of co-crucifixion found in Romans 6. Co-crucifixion, or radical identification with Christ’s person and work, produces enduring, all-encompassing results in the life of the believer.

Unlike the grace gifts of cleansing, a clear conscience, and the filling of the Spirit, the liberating force of co-crucifixion is a positional blessing that is not immediately experiential. It has to bereckoned as Paul enjoins in Romans 6:11 in order for its power to be appropriated day by day. Peace, hope, and joy are a function of ongoing fresh acts of faith in Christ enabled by the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13).

The behavior of the Galatian believers gives evidence to the fact that without sustained faith in Christ it is possible to lapse into a legal attempt to commend oneself to God.

Paul condemns this dangerous tendency toward relapse as a departure from faith in the sufficiency of Christ. All attempts to put oneself right with God by law will be met with utter impossibility (Alan Cole, Galatians, p. 83).

The saint must not return to the ‘old path’ of law. For life under law was characterized by reliance upon oneself. By contrast Paul exults in the fact that he is so transformed by union with Christ that he does not recognize his former sinful self (Geoffrey Wilson, Galatians, p. 50, 51).

Legal working for acceptance with God is hostile to what is ours by God’s grace through union with Christ. The Christian life of faith in the Son of God excludes reliance upon oneself or works. The life of faith in Christ is dominated, controlled, and animated by the thought of the love of the Son of God (ibid.).

Seeking to be justified in Christ” (2:17) refers to the fact that justification (though a once for all forensic act of God) is a continuous experience for believers. Christians not only exercise initial faith, but continue to believe. They continue daily to reckon that Christ is their life, their favor, and their acceptance with God. Confidence concerning our acceptance with God is the fruit of ongoing faith; “Christ liveth in me” is the distinctive mark of the saved person (Homer Kent, The Freedom of God’s Sons; Studies in Galatians, p. 74-77).

Luther on Galatians 2:20 – the necessity of knowing we are one with Christ

How do we live out union with Christ? It is no longer I who live says Paul. Christ and my conscience must become one so that nothing remains in my sight but Christ crucified and raised. If I behold myself only and set Christ aside in my thinking and in my self evaluation, I am gone.

It is no longer I who live – my own person is not the source of my spiritual lifeThe ‘old I’ was separate from Christ and bound to do the works of the law. The result of that arrangement was bondage to sin, death, and hell. Paul rejects the old person.

The new man; the saved man is in union with Christ. But our spiritual ‘sight’ is strained as we attempt to comprehend our oneness with Christ. We cannot spiritually conceive of Christ joined and united to us – it is like gazing at a wall and then attempting to see the color of the wall as separate from the wall.

Christ is joined and united unto us and abiding in us so that “He lives this life in me.” He lives this life in me which I now live. Christ Himself is the life I now live. Therefore Christ and I are now one. This is the great and glorious mystery of Colossians 1:27.

This union with Christ; my conjunction with Him is the reason I am delivered from the terror of the law and sin. I have been translated into Christ and His kingdom. It is a kingdom; a sphere of righteousness, peace, joy, life, salvation, and eternal glory. It is His, yet it is mine also by inseparable union. While I abide in Him what evil can hurt me?

If I behold and consider myself apart from Christ there is only sin, law, and condemnation. But I look to Christ and behold by faith my union and conjunction with Him – then I am dead to the law and have no sin on my account.

If therefore in the matter of justification I separate the Person of Christ from my person, then I am in the law and live in law, not in Christ – I am condemned by law and dead before God.

At this point Luther continues to reflect upon the reality of organic living union with Christ and wonders aloud about the actual spiritual condition of countless individuals who profess faith.

Paraphrasing Luther, countless individuals have only an historical faith which accepts the facts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. These individuals are not justified; for devils and the wicked have this kind of faith. (Historical faith is merely assensus, or mental assent; it is not fiducia, or moral trust.)

Faith must be purely and diligently taught. The true believer is entirely joined to Christ. The believer and Christ are made one person spiritually. The believer may boldly say I am now one with Christ. That is to say Christ’s righteousness, victory, and life are now mine.

So radical is this exchange that Christ may say, I am that sinner . . . his sins and death are minebecause he is joined to Me and I to him. By faith we are joined together so that we have become members of His body; His flesh and bone (Eph 5:30).

I live indeed – the faculties of my fleshly body express my thought, will, and affection, yet it is not I, but Christ that liveth in me. There is then a double life. The first is mine which is natural. The second is the life of Another; that is the life of Christ in me.

As touching my natural life, I am dead – but now I live by Another’s life, even Christ. If I lived my own life the law would have dominion over me and hold me captive. To the end therefore that it should not hold me captive I am dead to it. This death (through my Substitute) purchased for me the life of Another, even the life of Christ: which life is not mine by nature, but is given unto me by Christ through faith in Him.

How can this be? I look at my own person and see only flesh. The answer is that this life which I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God. Observers see my life; I eat, sleep, labor, yet they don’t really see my life.

Yes, I indeed live in the flesh, but not through the flesh, or according to the flesh. I live through faith and according to faith. Yes, I live in the flesh and exercise the faculties of my fleshly body, yet every good work, whether self-control, or edification of the saints, or Christian virtue, comes not from my flesh, but from Christ.

I cannot teach, give thanks, write, or pray but by means of the faculties of flesh that God has given me; but the ability to do these works does not come from my flesh but is given from God above.

So we see plainly where the spiritual life comes from; it is from the life of Christ in me (the natural man cannot perceive this). For this life is not visible to the naked eye. This life is in the heart by faith where the tyranny of the flesh has been killed and Christ reigns through His Holy Spirit. (The Spirit of Christ sees, hears, speaks, works, and enables the believer to do all things in Him, yet the flesh resists.)

What is the Apostle’s aim for his readers? Namely the discovery that happy is the man who can say I live by faith in the Son of God. We have here the true manner of justification, and a perfect example of the assurance of faith. He loved me and gave Himself for me. How we must hear this diligently and allow it to sink into our innermost being.

The kingdom of man’s reason and the spiritual kingdom must be put far asunder. By depravity, what is in man’s will is evil and what is in his understanding is error. Therefore by natural strength and ability, no man will fulfill the law and love God.

All begins with the love and grace of Christ. He loved me first; He is the beginning. He found no good in me but had mercy on me. I was wicked, led astray, increasingly estranged from God, carried away and led captive by the devil. My reason, will, and understanding were at enmity with God, yet in spite of this He loved me and gave Himself to free me from the law, sin, the devil, and death.

The Son loved me and gave Himself for me – let these words thunder against any attempts at righteousness by the law, or by any of the law’s works. So great is the darkness in the will and understanding, it was impossible that sinful man should be ransomed but the inestimable price of Christ’s death and blood.

Therefore it is terrible blasphemy to imagine any work whereby we should presume to pacify God. Only the inestimable price of the death and blood of the Son of God can bring us near to our Creator. He gave Himself for me – a wretched, damnable sinner.

What a travesty to choose a religious work, order, or sect that promises to commend us to God bynon-faith. It is blasphemous to trust in something other than faith in the Son of God who gave Himself to commend us to God. Nothing but destruction can come from religious exercise born ofnon-faith.

The only power against the solicitations, overtures, and temptations of acceptance with God bynon-faith is the imputed righteousness of Christ. It was necessary He be delivered up for me; no other price in heaven or earth could avail.

Christ the Son of God was delivered up for me; this is inestimable love. Saving faith wraps itself in Christ who was delivered to death for us. Our Savior is apprehended by faith – His gifts of righteousness and life are with Him to freely give to the believer.

Paul sets forth the Priesthood and offices of Christ which are to pacify God and make intercession for sinners. Christ offered Himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sins that He might redeem us, instruct us, and comfort us. He is our Prophet, Priest, and King.

Faith says He is the Son of God who, not for any of our deserving or any righteousness of our own, gave Himself out of His free mercy. He offered Himself up as a sacrifice for us sinners that He might sanctify us forever.

It is the greatest knowledge, treasure, and wisdom that Christians can have to define Christ as He is defined in Galatians 2:20. But of all things it is the hardest. Luther confesses that in spite of the great light and illumination of the Gospel which had shone upon his understanding so brightly, it is with difficulty that he is able to consistently define Christ in the way Paul does in Galatians 2:20.

The Reformer admits that his years in Romanism served to steep him in the wrong definition of Christ. Says Luther, [Oh how much work it was]to hold this definition of Christ which Paul here giveth; so deeply had the opinion and pestilent doctrine that Christ is a lawgiver[entered] as it were into my bones.

Read these words with great vehemence: “lives in me,” “loved me,” “for me,” that you may conceive, print, and etch their personal statement upon your heart and fully apply them to yourself, not doubting but confident by faith that you are among the number to whom the “me” belongs (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, pp. 87-97). 

James Haldane on Galatians 2:20 – the necessity of confidence in Christ

The believer is dead to the law by reason of having endured its curse in the Person of his Surety. Our Savior died a victim of the law’s righteous sentence. His death as our Substitute was sanctioned by God’s holy law that we might live unto God.

Paul speaks of himself as one of Christ’s members (Rom 12:4, 5). The believing sinner isbaptized into the body of Christ by God’s Spirit (1 Cor 12:12, 13).

It is our union with Christ that communicates all of the benefits of His Person and His work to us. We are conformed to our Head. But just as the cutting off of the head kills the body, so also the death of Christ was the death of His members (His people).

Death and the curse were pronounced by God upon the Son; He was cut off from God. All God’s waves and billows rolled over Him; the Father’s face was hidden from Him as He endured divine wrath. This was the price of our reconciliation.

The Apostle Paul’s life epitomizes faith in the Son. Paul represents himself as in Christ having been nailed to the cross. The Apostle’s statement illustrates just how fully Christ took our place.

As the holy, only begotten Son of God, it was not possible for Christ to be held by the power of death (Acts 2:24). He went down into the grave for one purpose; that by Him eternal life might be communicated to all those given to Him.

Consider that God’s plan is for sinners; but it required that the Son of God voluntarily offer Himself.A body Thou hast prepared for Me (Heb 10:5). For the joy set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2).Therefore God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name(Phil 2:9). He accomplished the Father’s will for our deliverance.

On Calvary’s tree the natural members of Christ’s physical body were nailed to the cross. So also all the members of Christ’s mystical body (the children given to Him) were spiritually present on that awful occasion. They died and rose with Him.

Not I but Christ says Paul – in Christ there is a new endless life formed in us at regeneration (when the Son was revealed in us – 1:16). This new life is maintained by the supply of the Spirit of Christ. The truth as it is in Christ, the word of grace; the Gospel is the “food” necessary to our support. The truth of Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection is the sustenance of our souls; in the Spirit’s hands the truth quickens us and manifests Christ to us.

The believer would die if he lost sight of Christ. The Christian is kept spiritually alive by the supply of the Spirit purchased for him by Christ’s ransom. The Spirit keeps us spiritually alive by taking the things of Christ and showing them to our minds (1 Cor 2:12).

Once the Lord has begun a work in us He will complete it (Phil 1:6). This is stated poetically in Isaiah 27:2, 3 – In that day a vineyard of wine, sing of it! I, the Lord am its keeper; I water it every moment. Lest anyone damage it, I guard it night and day.

The Christian is utterly dependent upon God’s testimony; the promise of Christ in us, and we in Him. Therefore we walk by faith, not sight.

Christ manifests Himself to His people (not the world). He forms in His people the hope of glory – they feel their security in Him. What is faith? Is it a body of facts to be believed? Is it truth claims? Saving faith is simply confidence in Christ. It is a confidence which under conviction, guilt, and helplessness casts itself on Christ alone.

The names of true believers (since the Apostles) are not published in God’s Word. So how do we know who is in possession of saving faith? The conclusive proof is that they are trusting Christ; they are living Galatians 2:20.

Pastors need to be discerning concerning those who profess salvation, for there is a false humility that says, my sins are so aggravated that I cannot speak confidently about safety in Christ. If you are not confident in his blood removing your guilt, you are not yet a believer.

Satan as an angel of light holds men in bondage by urging them to consider their guilt more than Christ. By contrast, the Holy Spirit through the Gospel gives Christ’s people the knowledge of salvation through remission of sins.

Paul wants believers to know they have eternal life. Yes, there is always the danger of presumption; the antinomian danger that winks at sin. But there is an equal hazard in embracing a legal spirit which drifts away from reliance upon Christ and moves ever closer to trust in self effort.

Apart from Christ living in us we are spiritually bankrupt. It is our Mediator’s supply of the Spirit through faith that maintains the soul. The more confidently we rely on Christ for pardon, the more we shall experience His power in subduing iniquity, healing backsliding, and promoting sanctification.

We ought to use every appointed means to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Read, pray, fellowship, admonish, flee sin, and don’t doubt your acceptance in the Beloved (James A. Haldane, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians, pp. 87-98).

Again pastors need to be discerning. It is a legal spirit that is ready to substitute faith in place of its object. Saving faith looks directly at the object it wishes to behold. It deals directly with Christ. It’s not content to know about Him; it longs to be familiar with Him.

There is so much corruption that yet remains in us. If we seek comfort by observing how much we are conformed to Christ, we shall soon be disappointed and feel our comfort evaporating.

Some have based their comfort upon consciousness that they have believed. But tragically, many are conscious they believe whose faith is not the faith of Christ. Hearts are immeasurably deceitful. Consciousness of having believed, or any feeling is not the bedrock foundation of hope.

We are commanded to rest in Christ Himself; He is the great object of faith. In proportion to our confidence in Christ, we will have assurance of salvation.

It is the Spirit’s ministry to the saints to take the things of Christ, the things of His dignity, His Person, the infinite value of His atonement, the freeness of His salvation and show them to our minds.

In other words, God reveals His Son in the believer. Our response is to believe and obey the truth through the Spirit’s enablement. These supplies of the Spirit are essential to our continuance and commencement of faith.

Those who profess salvation must never be satisfied to coexist with doubt. Assuming that we shall be saved while we tolerate doubt is an unsafe position to maintain. The Scriptures command us to give diligence in confirming a full assurance of hope until the end (2 Pet 1:9-11). Never be satisfied until you can say and mean it He loved me and gave Himself for me.

All who hear the Gospel are commanded to trust in Christ for salvation with assurance of acceptance. Justification by faith is God’s gracious gift to those who believe; but to believe means to utterly forsake everything else you have looked to for justification or acceptance with God.

Having renounced every other ground of hope, look to Christ for salvation. Call on the Name of the Lord – we have the promise of God confirmed to us by His oath – we shall be saved (Heb 6:13-20).

The remaining corruption of our hearts diverts us frequently from the enjoyment of our fellowship with God. What is the solution? Count all temporal things but rubbish compared to the infinite treasure of knowing Christ (Phil 3). View all around you in light of eternity.

Seek after, and do not be satisfied until you have the enjoyment of the light of God’s countenance. Practice the cultivation of His rest – for a rest remains for the people of God (Heb 4). Plead with the Lord to take entire possession of your heart and reign there without rivals.

He is standing, knocking, open to Him (Rev 3:20).