Faith Working by Love

The issue in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is justification. How is a guilty sinner declared righteous before God? The answer: a sinner is justified before God on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ received by or through the instrument of faith alone without works.

Paul preached that gospel in Galatia. The saints in Galatia had received and believed that gospel. But false teachers infiltrated the churches. They brought a different message, the message that the sinner is justified on the basis of his obedience to the law of God; or that he is justified on the basis of good works; or that he justified on the basis of faith and good works.

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“Crucified with Christ, I Live” (2)

Alive in Christ

You might think that, if Paul has been crucified with Christ and had died to the law, he would be dead—but he is not, for he clarifies in verse 20, “Nevertheless, I live.”

Paul’s crucifixion with Christ did not put his physical body in the tomb. Paul’s death to the law did not kill him physically. Paul was not physically crucified at all.

Or to put it another way, Paul is dead in one sense: he is dead to the law; but he is alive in another sense: he is alive to God. When the law threatens him, Paul’s answer to the law is, “I died to you; I am dead to you because of the cross of my Savior, Jesus Christ.” When God calls him, Paul’s answer to God is, “O my God, I live to thee; I devote myself to thee because of Jesus Christ thy Son.”

“I live” is Paul’s conclusion in verse 20. What does he mean by that? Does he refer simply to physical life? That cannot be the meaning, for that would be true of anyone—believer or unbeliever; or Christian, Jew, or atheist. But Paul is making a distinction: I have been crucified with Christ; therefore, I live. To the unbeliever Paul would say, “You have not been crucified with Christ, but you are a stranger to Christ; therefore, you do not live. You cannot live.”

Outside of Christ, the unbeliever is dead.

The life of which Paul writes is the rich life of fellowship with God. This life has its source in God, for God alone has true life. This life consists in knowing God. This life is eternal and everlasting life. It is the life of heaven begun in to the soul, which will come to perfection in the kingdom of God.

“Nevertheless, I live.”

Paul lives because Christ lives.

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“Crucified with Christ, I Live”

Dead to the Law

Paul begins Galatians 2:19 with this assertion, “I am dead,” or (better) I died.” The difference between “I am dead” and “I died” is the difference between a state of being (dead) and a completed action in the past (died). You might express it thus: “I died,” with the result that “I am dead.”

The truth that Paul died presupposes that before he died, he had lived—or he had been alive. Such is the case. With respect to what was Paul once alive? And with respect to what did Paul die, so that he is now dead? The answer to the question is “the law.” “I am dead to the law” or “I died to the law.”

There was a time in the past, says Paul, when I was alive to the law. But that has changed. I am now dead to the law, for I died to the law. Paul was alive to the law; he lived for the law; he was devoted to the law; and he sought his salvation in the law.

There was a time in the past, says Paul, when I tried to keep the law. The law said, “Do this and live.” Paul thought that by “doing” the law he would live. Therefore, Paul made every effort to keep the law. He lived very strictly.

Then something happened. Paul died to the law, so that now he is dead to the law.

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