The Principle Involved: Part 4 of 5 (series: Lessons on Galatians)
by John Lowe
The Law had done a service for Paul, even if it had not brought him justification. Through the Law, he had become dead to that very Law, because the Law had brought a conciseness of sin which prepared him to accept Christ. It had also brought Christ to the Cross in order to redeem those who had broken that Law. The Law killed Him, and those joined to Him by faith were freed to be joined to another, to live for God—“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another--to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7.4).
If a man is justified by the works of the Law, then why did Jesus Christ die? His death, burial, and resurrection are the key points of the Gospel (1 Cor 15.1-8). We are saved through faith in Christ (He died for us), and we live by faith in Christ (He lives in us). Furthermore, we are so identified with Christ by the Spirit that we died with Him (See Rom. 6). This means we are dead to the Law. To go back to Moses is to return to the graveyard! We have been “raised to walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6.4); and since we live by His resurrection power, we do not need the “help” of the Law.
What a marvelous explanation Paul has given in this verse. He says, I died in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, through faith I was identified with him, so that God imputes to me everything that happened to the Savior in whom I have placed my trust, and since He met all the demands of the law, paid the penalty and died under the curse, I (because I was represented in Christ through grace) suffered the same penalty and God today considers me as though I actually, personally, hung on the Cross myself, and met the full penalty of the Law, which is eternal death. That is Paul’s testimony, and every believer in Christ can truly say, I too am Crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.
In verse 20, Paul enlarges on what he says here.
20 I am Crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live ; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Verse 20 states a fact which is true of every believer
I am Crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live;
The old Paul, who sought to be to be justified to God by obedience to the Law was no more, because that very Law had succeeded in convincing him of his sin, and had prepared him to accept Christ as his Savior—which he did when he met Christ on the Damascus Road. Christ was Paul’s representative in the old Paul’s death to the Law. The result was Paul’s new life in Christ. In the statement he makes, “I am Crucified with Christ,”the emphasis is on both the past event and its continuing effects. This death brought life, not the same old life in the feebleness of the natural man, but an entirely new life; not simply divine life impersonally granted, but rather the living Christ Himself taking up His abode in the redeemed one. When a person trusts in Christ for salvation, he participates spiritually with the Lord in His Crucifixion and in His victory over sin and death.
There are many people today who talk about wanting to live the “Crucified” life. That is not what Paul is talking about in this verse. We are not to seek to be Crucified with Christ. We have already been Crucified with Him. The principle of living is not by the Law which has slain us, because it found us guilty. Now we are to live by Faith. Faith in what? Faith in the Son of God. You see, the death of Christ on the Cross was not only penal (that is, paying the penalty for our sins), but it was substitutionary also. He was not only the sacrifice for sin; He was the substitute for all who believe. Paul declares, therefore, that under the Law, he was tried, found guilty, condemned, and in the person of his substitute he was slain. When did that take place? It took place when Christ was Crucified. Paul was Crucified with Christ. But “nevertheless I live.” How do I live? In Christ! He is alive today at God’s right hand. We are told that we have been put in Christ. You cannot improve on that. That ought to get rid of that foolish idea that we can crucify ourselves.
In Romans 6 we are told that we have been buried with Christ by baptism, by identification. We have been raised with him in newness of life, and are now joined to the living Christ. Paul says we do not know Him any longer after the flesh. He is not the Man of Galilee walking around the Sea of Galilee. He is at God’s right hand. He is the
Paul is saying, “I am Crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live.” You see, the Law executed us. The Law could not give us life. Who gave us life? “I am Crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.” How do you live? “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” That is the important thing. He died for me down here so that I might live in Him up yonder and so that He might live in me down here. “And the life,” Paul says, “which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” What kind of life is this? It is a life of faith—saved by faith, lived by faith, walk by faith. This is what it means to walk in the Spirit. “I live by the faith of the Son of God—how tender this is—“who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Christ loved me, but He could not love me into heaven. He had to give Himself for me. The content of this verse makes me believe that Paul was present at the crucifixion. Now, after Paul came to know the Crucified Christ he could remember that day and say, “While I was there ridiculing Him, shooting out the lip at Him, expressing my hatred for Him, He loved me and gave himself for me.” “He gave Himself”—the supreme sacrifice. Paul called himself the “chief of sinners,” and from what I know about him I would have to agree with him; he was the chief of sinners.
You can tread underfoot the blood of Christ, ignoring Him, turning away from Him, and turning against Him as Paul did. But it was for that crowd that Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23.34). Even if you hate Him, He was loving you, and giving Himself for you
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:
He is no longer that old man, Saul, the Jew—“And those who are Christ's have Crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5.24), but another man—“Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man” (1 Sam. 10.6). He “died to the Law”, because he was “Crucified with Christ;” he was able “to live for God” because Christ lived in him. In order to understand this verse it is necessary to know the meaning of union with Christ. This doctrine is based on such passages as Romans 6.1-6 and 1 Corinthians 12.13 which explain that believers have been baptized by the holy Spirit into Christ and into the church, the body of all true believers. Having been just united to Christ, believers share in His death, burial, and resurrection. Paul could therefore write, “I have been “Crucified with Christ” (lit., “I have been and am now “Crucified with Christ”). This brought death to the law. It also brought a change in regard to one’s self: “I am Crucified with Christ.” The self-righteous, self-centered Saul died. Furthermore, death with Christ ended Paul’s enthronement of self, he yielded the throne of his life to Another, to Christ. But it was not in his own strength that Paul was able to live the Christian life; the living Christ Himself took up His abode in Paul’s heart; “Christ lives in me.” But Christ does not operate automatically in a believer’s life; it is a matter of living the new live “by faith in the Son of God.” It is then faith and not works or legal obedience that releases divine power to live a Christian life. This faith, says Paul, builds on the sacrifice of Christ “who loved” us “and gave Himself” for us. In essence, Paul affirmed, “If He loved me enough to give himself for me, then He loves me enough to live out his life in me.” The believer’s old self is dead, having been Crucified with Christ. The believer’s new man has the privilege of the indwelling Christ empowering Him and living through him.
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
The new life (as contrasted with his life before his conversion) is lived on the principle of faith in Christ (v. 16), rather than on the principle of obedience to the Law of Moses. This faith builds on the fact of the personal love of the Savior for those on whose behalf He died—“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour” (Eph. 5.2).Anyone who does not trust Christ in this way would frustrate (set aside) the grace of God. If righteousness could be obtained by keeping the Law (Which is something that has never been done.) the death of Christ would not have been required; it would be a wasted gesture.
“In the flesh” describes Paul’s life before his conversion, which was a mere animal life, but this was not his true life; “it is but the mask of life under which lives another, namely, Christ, who is my true life” (Luther).
The phrase “Son of God” reminds us that His Divine Sonship is the source of His life-giving power.