Commentary on Galatians, 2:20,21

Galatians 2:20,21

“19 For I through the law died to the law, that I might  live to God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

“I have been crucified with Christ”

(Please read Romans 6:1-14)

Paul refers to himself here, but of course, this is true of all Christians. Jesus was our substitute. We deserved to die on the cross for our sins. We deserved to be punished. But Jesus paid it all for us. He took our place. When He was being whipped, it was as though we were being whipped. When they beat Him, it was as though we were being beat. When they thrust the crown of thorns on His head, it was as though it was being thrust upon our own heads. When they drove the nails into His hands and feet, it was as though they were driving them into ours. When they lifted Him up on that cross, it was though we were being lifted up. When they thrust the spear into His side, it was as though they were thrusting it into ours. When He died on that cross, it was as though we had died. But it didn’t end there. When He arose from the dead, it was as though we had arisen from the dead.

“it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me”

We are fully united with Christ in His death and resurrection. We have died with Christ, and have been raised to new life in Christ. Now it’s no longer us who lives, that is, the old self is dead and gone, and we are now new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). Jesus now lives in us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19,20).

“the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God”

Our new life in Christ is to be lived in full dependence upon Christ. It’s not about living according to a set of laws, and in our own power; it’s about allowing Jesus to live His life in us. It’s about yielding, in faith, to the Holy Spirit to conform our character and life to the image of Christ. This can only occur as we saturate our minds with the Word of God, and as we spend much time in His presence. As we give ourselves to God’s Word, with a sincere willingness to live by it, the Holy Spirit performs a gradual miracle in us as He shapes our lives according to His will.

“who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

Jesus paid the price for our sins out of a heart of love. Think about this. Even before He created us, He knew that He would have to leave His throne in Glory, and come to this earth in human form, and die an excruciating death. He knew that His Father would have to turn away from Him as the sins of the world where laid upon Him (Is 53:6; Matt 27:46). He knew that He would be raised to life in an immortal body, and apparently never to return to His previous form. Even though He was fully aware of what it would cost Him, He created us anyway, and willing paid the price for our sins. That’s a love that none of us can fully comprehend. 

“21 I do not make void the grace of God. For if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”

Paul now concludes his address to Peter and the rest of the Jews who were present. He tells them flatly, that he personally does not and will not void the grace of God through the observance of the law of Moses. If one returns to the Jewish rites and customs of the law as a means of justification, then it makes void the grace of God through Christ. For “if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” If there was any way at all that we could contribute to our own salvation, then there was no reason for Christ to die, He “died for nothing.”

I’m sure this was a very humbling experience for Peter, and for Barnabas too, but it had to be done. There was too much at stake not to address this issue before all the people. If Paul hadn’t done this, his message and ministry to the Gentiles would have suffered a major setback. There’s enough opposition to the message of truth, that it doesn’t need to come from our own people.

I would like to point out that while we have absolutely no power to obtain our own salvation, genuine faith will result in a life of faithfulness. True saving faith is characterized by a sincere humility to the the authority of Christ as King. That’s exactly what Paul was trying to convey in Gal 2:17. Christ is not a “minister of sin.” The true gospel message does not promote sin. On the contrary, true faith in the true gospel promotes true obedience as true followers of Christ.