Have you ever heard Christians say that if churches or Christian institutions don’t have rules and regulations, people will go off the rails leading to anarchy? So if we want to be good Christians, they say, then we should be making new rules, like the ones in the previous post: no wearing lipstick or smoking a pipe.
As we continue our study through Galatians 2, Paul says, “Wait a minute, that’s not true. Jesus doesn’t promote sin.” Consider what Paul says in verse 17. When we look at our lives, even after placing our faith in Christ, do we see that we sin, doing things that do not honor God, whether that be in word, thought or deed? My guess is that all Christians should be answering, “Yes,” because we still do things that dishonor God, right? So does the fact that there are Christians who trust in God’s grace, but still sin, mean Jesus promotes sin? It could seem like it, right? Shouldn’t Christians be the ones who don’t sin? Maybe what is needed is a new Christian law code, to help us stop sinning?
In verse 18 Paul says that if he rebuilds the law, it will result in him becoming a lawbreaker. But he has not rebuilt the law. That is not what the good news of Jesus is all about, it is not about making a new law code.
Instead Paul says in verse 19, that he died to the law, that he might live for God. Do you hear that? Christians are those who live for God. So how does that work? Those of you who have ever felt those first pangs of being in love, could it be said that you were living for that person? Did you plan out your day so you could interact with them? Did you see things and wonder, “Would they like that?” Or “What would they think of this idea?” Those are evidences of living for another. In like manner, we are to be living for God. Not checking off our adherence to rules and regulations. Living for him, loving him and his ways, and knowing that his ways are made and created out of his heart’s desire for our very best.
Paul’s teaching reaches its high point in verse 20. This is a powerful verse, and one that I encourage you to memorize. Let’s look at it closely.
The first line is, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live.” A Christian is a person who so identifies with Christ that we see ourselves as crucified with him. It’s like Jesus himself once said, “If you want to be my disciples you must die to yourself.” That’s what Paul is getting at here. We die to ourselves, to our desires, to our longings. In fact, there is a sense, Paul says, that we no longer live. Our desires and longings are dead.
That might sound harsh or wrong. Isn’t it OK to have desires? Well, Paul goes on and says something that speaks to this.
Look at the next phrase: “but Christ lives in me.” Our desires, our longings are replaced by a whole new kind of life that is now energizing us. Jesus’ life is in us. That’s wild. And a tad weird. Think about it: don’t Christians believe that Jesus is a person with a body? Yes, we do. So how is a person inside billions of other people? To answer that we need to remember what Jesus himself taught. In places like John 14, he said that when he would leave his disciples, he would send his Spirit to live with them. That is how he lives in us. By his Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus lives in us, and that is astounding. God is within us!
That gives Paul reason to keep thinking about the ramifications of this. He says next that “the life I live in the body, I lives by faith in the Son of God.” Paul’s longing is for Christ and Christ only. He wants a life that is marked by faith in Jesus. Do you see what Paul has done here? He has taught us that Christians will replace their longings with faith in Jesus. The more we love and know Jesus the more our hearts will beat like his, our eyes will see things as Jesus does, and our longings will be what Jesus’s are.
There is incredibly good reason for this, as we see in his final phrase: “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in God…” In other words we can replace our longings with his longings, and we can do this with full confidence in him because, “…he loved me and gave himself for me.”
Everything Paul has said in Galatians 2:20 is rooted in God’s love for us. God’s love for us is an all-encompassing, total kind of love that we could never fully describe or explain. It is so rich. It never fails. Because of that we can make his longings our longings. When we do so, we can and will find satisfaction in him.
Just dwell on that verse. Let me read it again.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Isn’t that a beautiful concept? What Paul unearths for us is the true satisfaction of longing. In comparison to all we long for, even good longings like peace and happiness, there is a deeper satisfaction that must come first, Paul says, and that is a longing for Jesus.
Clearly then, when God is living in us by his Spirit, and our longings are aligned with his, we do not need a law code. Our lives will more and more resemble his!