“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
(Galatians 2:19-20 NIV)
Key Observation: Christ has not accomplished the full purpose of his death for us until he has come alive within us and through us by the Holy Spirit.
Paul had found himself most hostile to God when he was most devoted to doing and enforcing the Torah. He had been sure that the way to align himself with God’s righteousness was by lining his life up with the commandments in the law of Moses. That path, however, left him dead to what God was doing in Israel’s midst on behalf of the world. He found himself every bit as much God’s enemy as any Gentile sinner. The law of Moses, which did not help Paul line up with God’s righteousness after all, will not help the Gentiles do so either. And so Paul had to die to what he was in order to become what God wished to make of him. This included dying to the Law, which Paul hints here was ultimately in line with God’s purposes for the Law and revealed in the Law. This is far from obvious, so Paul will give a lot of attention in chapters 3 and 4 to tracing out how this works.
Paul also found himself reconciled to God in the same way that any Gentile sinner would be reconciled to God. This was through an encounter with the living Christ that awakened trust in Jesus and all that Jesus’ dying for him had won for him. Of course this included forgiveness of his past sins—most starkly his hostility against Jesus’ followers! It also included a share in the Holy Spirit, as Paul will go on to emphasize later in this letter.
This brings Paul to what is perhaps his clearest and most beautiful expression of the Christian life. Paul has “come alive to God” in a way he had never known before. And this coming alive has happened for him because Christ is coming alive in him. Notice the reciprocity implicit in this description. Jesus loves me and gave his life for me, to bring me back to God the Father and secure for me the Holy Spirit. Now I give what remains of my life to Jesus, for him to live through me. Christ’s giving of himself becomes the focal act that defines my responses in every situation. All of life comes to be lived with a view to giving oneself over to Christ, to his interests, and to his agenda.
It is a death to the Law, but it is also a death to one’s own ego. The “I” no longer drives my life in the body. Christ drives and directs my life in the body by his indwelling Spirit. Paul will speak elsewhere of the “old person” (Col. 3:9; Eph. 4:22) and of the flesh with its cravings and desires (see Galatians 5:17). By dying with Christ, we are given the opportunity to die to all of this so that something new can be born and come to life in us. This is the new person that the Spirit creates in us, that shows God the obedience that God deserves, that reflects the heart and character of the Son. Paul will also refer to this as a “new creation,” which is all that matters now in God’s sight (6:15). Being circumcised can add nothing to this and remaining uncircumcised can take nothing away. There is no surer path to righteousness than this—for God’s Righteous One to take over and come alive in me.
Questions for Reflection
- What about your life right now reflects Christ alive in and living through you? In what ways is the Spirit leading you to die a little more to your ego and give more room to Christ?
- How much of your life, day by day, is shaped in response to the love Christ showed you in giving himself for you?
What is the Christian’s relationship to the Old Testament? How does Christ fit in to the larger story of salvation reaching as far back as Abraham? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life?
These are just some of the principal questions that Paul addressed as he wrote his letter to his converts in the Roman province of Galatia, and they remain as relevant today as they were then. Discover the whole of Paul’s proclamation of the “good news” afresh – the good news that not only delivers us from the consequences of sin, but from its power. Get the Bible study on the Letter to the Galatians by David A. deSilva from our store here.