Today, a most precious message.
Join me at Galatians 2:16. Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch but began to backslide. The tradition was that Jews were not permitted to eat with Gentiles. God had shown Jews and Gentiles all need salvation through Christ. Jews were neither superior to Gentiles nor vice versa. Christ unites us all, no matter our ethnicity.
But some had come from Jerusalem, who seem to have had some connection with James, the leader of the church. These visitors were teaching that, in addition to receiving Christ, circumcision was also necessary. These kept separate from the Gentile Christians. Now Peter and other Jewish Christians were slipping backwards into the old ways, keeping aloof from Gentiles. They were living as Christians but they feared the circumcision party. For them it was backwards to old habits.
Paul would have none of this. He resisted. And today God's Word has a message for us.
Pleasing Men or God?
It was hypocrisy to claim to be Christian but go backwards to behaviors from before they knew Jesus and His gospel. Paul made it clear at the beginning of his epistle to the Galatians. He asked,
Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).
There is always a force in religion that tries to smooth us down, get us to settle, avoid conflict, and be at peace for the moment. There is always a retreat position, less spiritual, less self-denying, more self-pleasing.
It was more convenient to return to the habits from before. It always is. There's always a circumcision party--always a human way to do God things. There is always a way to avoid crucifixion.
Paul resisted Peter. He reminded him that no one is justified by the works of the law. Not the Gentile; not the Jew. it is through faith, believing, trusting in Jesus. It is not that we do not do good works; it is that in doing good works, we are not saved by the doing.
In 17 Paul asks a question. He asks what if while we are seeking to be justified we discover that we are sinners? Actually, the only path to being justified is to recognize that we are sinners, that we have been guilty, and that Christ is our only hope. In Steps to Christ, Ellen White puts it thus:
The humble and broken heart, subdued by genuine repentance, will appreciate something of the love of God and the cost of Calvary; and as a son confesses to a loving father, so will the truly penitent bring all his sins before God. And it is written, 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' 1 John 1:9 (Steps to Christ, p. 41).
In 18, what if we rebuild what we once destroyed? Paul warns here about Peter and the other Jews' strange regression. They saw Christ crucified for them. They turned to Christ. They saw that their Jewish ethnicity had not guaranteed them salvation but that they themselves were as lost as ever every other man was lost. They saw that the righteousness they had sought for soaking in the traditions of the elders and trying to be made righteous through the unbending iron of the law, was for naught. They laid that all aside when they saw themselves guilty before God. They turned to Christ. They showed then that their old views were expired.
But now, because a crew of blind church dignitaries had driven into town, they backed away from the truth. They feared the circumcision party. Once again they ate separately from the Gentiles. Now they were rebuilding what they had thrown aside, and the very fact that they had thrown it aside for Christ but were now dropping back into its stink proved them guilty all over again.
Jesus Comes to Save and to Die
In 19, through the law Paul died to the law, so that he might live to God. In the Scriptures God had shown the way. All the Bible pointed to Messiah who would come. He came!
To what a pass humanity had journeyed:
The deception of sin had reached its height... They were moving on in gloomy procession toward eternal ruin... Sin had become a science, and vice was consecrated as a part of religion. It was demonstrated before the universe that, apart from God, humanity could not be uplifted. A new element of life and power must be imparted by Him who made the world. With intense interest the unfallen worlds had watched to see Jehovah arise, and sweep away the inhabitants of the earth (The Desire of Ages, pp. 36-37).
That's how bad it was when Jesus came. Out of that extraordinary emergency and Jesus' life sacrificed for us, crucified at the cross, Paul and all who became Christians had turned away from a morally bankrupted religion to live to God. Jesus was, is, and always will be, the answer. They had found that! They had embraced that! Now it all made sense.
Crucified with Christ
Now at Galatians 2:20 he says, "I have been crucified with Christ."
Understand that it is not that Jesus was crucified and then we come along years after and we are then crucified. It is not that there are two different crucifixions, Christ's and mine. Rather, there is one and only one crucifixion here referred to: the crucifixion of Jesus.
The event referred to is one and the same. Paul speaks of Christ's death which I share. "I have been crucified with Christ." This is in the perfect tense and means that Jesus was crucified and that the results are continuing. Jesus was crucified and when I received Him I was joined in His crucifixion.
Look now to your handout. As a little help we've put Galatians 2:20 in the middle column, stepped out one-by-one in its phrases, and in the left column we've placed parallel thoughts from Romans chapter six, while the right column holds parallel thoughts from Galatians chapter five. We are Protestants. We use Protestant biblical interpretation. We compare Scripture with Scripture.
I want you to see that there is plentiful insight in the Bible even by the same inspired author, Paul, to help us grasp line by line what he is summarizing in 2:20.
Romans 6:3 shows that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death. Galatians 5:24, that those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. We, you and I, we are crucified with Christ. We are all scarred up, all of us. We have been baptized into His death. No, its not that we earn anything by that. We have no merit and we add nothing to Jesus' merits. Nothing! But we receive what He did for us as reality. The scars earn us nothing, but being crucified with Him reminds us of the price He paid for us.
So Martin Luther says in one place,
Paul explains what constitutes true Christian righteousness. True Christian righteousness is the righteousness of Christ who lives in us. We must look away from our own person (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, p. 58).
Faith connects you so intimately with Christ, that He and you become as it were one person. As such you may boldly say, 'I am now one with Christ. Therefore, Christ's righteousness, victory, and life are mine.' On the other hand, Christ may say, 'I am that big sinner. His sins and his death are mine, because he is joined to Me, and I to him' (Ibid., p. 59).
It is No Longer I who Live
Galatians 2:20 continues. "It is no longer I who live."
Romans 6:6 NASB says our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be made powerless (margin reading). King James version says "that the body of sin might be destroyed." We have to be careful here. It is not destroyed as much as whithered. The same Greek word is used of the tree Jesus cursed. It was whithered, dried up, lost its power. But still it stood there by the roadside. Vultures could still perch on its dead branches watching for prey.
Our old self, our habitual mode of living before we received Christ, is depowered. But it is not gone. All the old brain pathways, ways of thinking and making decisions on the basis of the siren call of the flesh, remain. It has been superceded by a new life, a new experience, but we can always go backwards. That old, whithered life remains, standing by the side of our pathway, ready in a moment of weakness to be reanimated. When we come down off the cross and separate ourselves from Jesus, we can go backwards. But it is a return to decay and spiritual death, a return to slavery to sin. There is nothing there for us but despair.
But Christ Lives in Me
In Galatians 2:20 it is no longer I who live "but Christ lives in me."
So Romans 6:5 says we have become united with Him. Galatians 5:25 says we live by the Spirit. Luther says,
My speech is no longer directed by by the flesh, but by the Holy Ghost. My sight is no longer governed by the flesh, but by the Holy Ghost. My hearing is no longer determined by the flesh, but by the Holy Ghost. . . .Christ reigns in the heart by His Holy Spirit, who sees, hears, speaks, suffers, and does all things in and through us over the protest and the resistance of the flesh (Ibid., p. 60).
Ellet J. Waggoner writes,
Unless we are crucified with Him, His death and resurrection profit us nothing. If the cross of Christ is separated from us, and outside of us, even though it be but by so much as a moment of time and an hairbreadth of space, it is to us all the same as if He were not crucified. If men would see Christ crucified, they must look upward; for the arms of the cross that was erected on Calvary reach from Paradise lost to Paradise restored, and embrace the whole world of sin (The Glad Tidings, p. 44).
We want to stay there with Him, crucified with Him, one with Him. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus indwells us and we indwell him. We experience the presence and the power of the heavenly trio. This does not mean we disappear. We live but we live a new life. And so, Waggoner writes
The one who is crucified with Christ begins at once to live as another man (The Glad Tidings, p. 46).
The Life which I Now Live
And in Galatians 2:20 Paul continues, speaking of "the life which I now live."
Galatians 5:16 speaks of our walking in the Spirit. Romans 6:11 that we are to consider ourselves "to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." The word there translated "consider" in NASB and "reckon" in other translations, means to consider things as they actually are. It is the same word Paul uses in Philippians 4:8 where we are urged that our thought life be composed of
whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
It is where the text says "think" or "dwell on" these things. It is not a pretend word or a fantasy word. God shows us we should, and He really means that we should, actually, think on those kinds of things. It does not mean that we are to pretend to think on those things, or simply to count it as though we are thinking on those things.
So we are to consider ourselves to be truly, authentically, actually, "dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." There is a life we are now living. But now we are new creatures. Now we are not trapped in the past. Now we have a new future and we not only live toward that new future, we live in that new future because we live today in Christ Jesus.
In the Flesh
The phrase wasn't done. Galatians 2:20 actually said, "the life which I now live in the flesh."
And so Romans 6:11 continued into 6:12, urging us as believers, "do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts." And Galatians 5:16 says, "Walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh."
There is life for us now, in Christ, actual new life, even victory. Ellen White understood this, so she wrote in The Desire of Ages, p. 123, "He [Jesus] has endured all that it is possible for us to bear. His victory is ours."
I Live by Faith in the Son of God
But how does the Christian live this victory? Galatians 2:20 continues, saying, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God."
Romans 6:22 reminds us that through faith in Christ we have been freed from slavery to sin and now we are slaves to righteousness. We have to serve but because of the gift of God we can choose whether we are slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness. In Galatians chapter five we "through the Spirit, by faith" live out our experience. We keep advancing in our goal of Christlikeness, faith working through love. He gives us the gift of faith, and He gives us the gift of authentic selfless love. We never equal Christ but that is OK; we are not God and never will be and need not be. But we aspire to be more and more like Him in the ages of eternity.
Faith is the whole game. So in The Desire of Ages we have this:
Not even by a thought did He [Jesus] yield to temptation. So it may be with us. Christ's humanity was united with divinity; He was fitted for the conflict by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And He came to make us partakers of the divine nature. So long as we are united to Him by faith, sin has no more dominion over us. God reaches for the hand of faith in us to direct it to lay fast hold upon the divinity of Christ, that we may attain to perfection of character (The Desire of Ages, p. 123).
And one more:
It is not enough to believe about Christ; we must believe in Him. The only faith that will benefit us is that which embraces Him as a personal Saviour; which appropriates His merits to ourselves. Many hold faith as an opinion. Saving faith is a transaction by which those who receive Christ join themselves in covenant relation with God. Genuine faith is life. A living faith means an increase of vigor, a confiding trust, by which the soul becomes a conquering power (Ibid., p. 347).
Christianity is real. The possibility of being what we desire deep down to be, is ours for the taking. I'm asking you to think about the life that you now live. On your own, you fail. But when Christ lives in you, He succeeds.
Who Loved Me and Gave Himself Up for Me
So I live this life by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20). Romans 6:23 reminds us His gift to us is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Meanwhile, the NASB at Galatians 5:1 states this truth, if it is possible, even more powerfully:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 2:21 warns,
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died needlessly.
Why was Jesus crucified? For me. He gave Himself up for me. We are saved by Him. We believe in Him. We can never go back to being saved by our works or by some crazy tightrope dance alone up on the highwire to some sterile kind of self-attained perfection.
In Acts of the Apostles we see about where our experience should be:
Zeal for God and His cause moved the disciples to bear witness to the gospel with mighty power. Should not a like zeal fire our hearts with a determination to tell the story of redeeming love, of Christ and Him crucified? It is the privilege of every Christian, not only to look for, but to hasten the coming of the Saviour. If the church will put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness, withdrawing from all allegiance with the world, there is before her the dawn of a bright and glorious day (Acts of the Apostles, pp. 600-601).
It is in our power to speed the Second Coming of Jesus, not by our own righteousness but surrendering to His work. And the only way ever that will happen is when we have Jesus to be our personal Savior.
A.T. Jones, preaching on Galatians 2:20, says
Thus it is made possible for every soul to say, in full assurance of Christian faith, 'He loved me.' 'He gave Himself for me.' 'I am crucified with Christ.' 'Christ liveth in me.' For any soul to say, 'I am crucified with Christ,' is not speaking at a venture. It is not believing something on a guess. It is not saying a thing of which there is no certainty (A.T. Jones, Lessons on Faith, p. 121).
And so, Jesus is ours.
If we want Him.
His crucifixion is ours.
If we want it.
And so the power that launched the Reformation still speaks. I close with the words of Martin Luther:
Let us count the price. When you hear that such an enormous price was paid for you, will you still come along with your cowl, your shaven pate, your chastity, your obedience, your poverty, your works, your merits? What do you want with all these trappings? What good are the works of all men, and all the pains of the martyrs, in comparison with the pains of the Son of God dying on the cross, so that there was not a drop of His precious blood, but it was all shed for your sins. If you could properly evaluate this incomparable price, you would throw all your ceremonies, vows, works, and merits into the ash can. What awful presumption to imagine that there is any work good enough to pacify God, when to pacify God required the invaluable price of the death and blood of His own and only Son? (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, p. 61).
Chewelah WA Seventh-day Advnetist Church 2018-09-22
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