Not by law, but by grace alone

Galatians 2:20-21: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Paul says he has been crucified with Christ. This phrase in the Greek is Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαι. This phrase literally reads “Christ together-with-crucified [I have been]”. This is what Paul is emphasizing: true faith rests on union with Christ. We must be careful when we use this word faith, since it is a word that has been redefined by the world, and sometimes we use the world’s definition of faith as though it were true. A faith that does not rest in union with Christ is a false faith, a blind leap into the abyss.

Paul says here in his letter to the Galatians that faith unites us to Christ in His death on the cross and His resurrection. When he says “I have been crucified with Christ”, he speaks a deep truth. If we are united to Christ, we have died. We have crucified our old nature. Our old nature has been buried with Christ. Now we are reborn with Christ because of His resurrection, and we will rise from the dead in the last day, at the last trumpet. We are reborn, but our old nature is still dead and buried, which is why Paul can say “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Not only can Paul say that his old nature has died with Christ and that he has new life in complete union with Christ, but he can say with all confidence that the Son of God has loved him and given Himself for him.

The love of Christ is usually misunderstood both in many churches and the world. Many people think of the love of Christ as being generic and hypothetical. The love of Christ is personal and actual, it is a particular love for those for whom He died. Christ did not die for a hypothetical mass of people. It is not as though Christ did 99% of the work waiting for people to do the remaining 1%. If that were the case, we have no hope. I want to add that Christ does not need your permission to save you. When our Great High Priest died on that cross, He had the names of each and every one of His elect people in His mind and heart, just like the high priest in the Old Covenant had the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on his shoulders and on his breastpiece. Our Great High Priest knows the names of all His people, and He intercedes for them before the Father.

The Apostle Paul continues “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” In other words, Paul says “I do not nullify the grace of God because my justification does not depend on my works. If it were, then Christ’s atoning sacrifice is vain, and that would nullify the grace of God.” If justification were by works, it wouldn’t be by grace, because then it would be a prize or a salary, as in the example of Romans 4: that “to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believe in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5). If I can earn my salvation through my works, then there is absolutely no reason for the death of Christ, for it would be absolutely unnecessary. Again, Christ was not doing 99% of the work waiting for us to do the remaining 1%. Either Christ did it all, or He did nothing, because God never does an incomplete or imperfect work. Our salvation depends not on our own righteousness, but only on the righteousness of Christ which we receive by grace alone, through faith alone.

Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). Those of us who have been saved have recognized that we have absolutely no righteousness of our own with which to enter into the Kingdom of God. We have also this comfort: Jesus Christ has earned that righteousness, and it is ours by faith. Salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Who can frustrate God’s perfect plan? Nobody. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31).

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