New Life in Christ
by Bob Burridge ©2018
Galatians 2:20 records a very personal comment by the Apostle Paul. It turns the believer’s focus toward the work Jesus did for him on the cross, and what that work continues to do for him daily. In this verse he wrote,
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.”
Paul says that as a believer he was crucified with Christ. Each true believer in the work of the Savior can say the same. Put your own name there. Every redeemed Christian is crucified with Christ. Of course the difference is that the crucifixion of Jesus was physical and took place almost 2000 years ago. Your crucifixion with him on that cross was representative. It was your guilt, not his, that caused his humiliating and cruel death to take place. It was his righteousness and infinite power that made his death sufficient to pay for your sins.
Death is sin’s penalty. But it isn’t only physical death, the separation of body and soul. It’s also that total separation between you and God’s fellowship. Christ took the total of all your evil and guilt and died in your place. By his death he removed the guilt, and in place of the death it demands he gives you life – restored fellowship with your Creator and eternal fellowship with him in glory when this life on Earth is over. Meanwhile we live as those deserving the humiliation of a convicted offender sentenced to hang on the cross. The old ways that condemned us are to be put off and the new life we have in the Savior is to be growing in us.
The emphasis is “with Christ“. That’s the first word in this verse in the Greek text. Very literally it would be translated, “With Christ – I have been crucified.” [“Christo sunestauromai” (Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαι)]
The verb “I have been crucified” doesn’t just state the fact of what Christ did. It’s a perfect tense verb meaning, “I have been crucified, and it continues to have its effect on me.” In those few hours on the cross, your eternal punishment was taken up by him, and its value and effect will forever mark you as innocent in God’s eyes. No event or sin in your past, or even in your future, escapes what was done for you there.
Then he added, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Our Savior’s resurrection means that as one redeemed you are restored to loving fellowship with your Creator, and the Savior is at work in you to make you able to truly glorify God. You will also be raised up at the last day. The separation of your body and soul will be repaired in that day. They will be rejoined into an inseparable union forever.
You will not be raised up with the morally imperfect soul you were born with. You will have a renewed soul, not only credited with the holiness of Jesus Christ, but also totally free from sinful desires. And you will not have your present body which is headed for aging, sickness, and physical death. It will be a glorified body, healed, and made perfect forever, suited for life in heaven.
The life we have as Christians doesn’t begin at our death or at the resurrection. It begins right away. Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” The Apostle’s death, and your death, was earned in Adam. This new life was not earned by Paul, or you, either. It was earned by the merits of Christ. It begins when you are regenerated by coming to the Savior in humble repentance and faith, and is sustained by the living Christ who is at work in each believer.
When he says “It is no longer I who live” he isn’t saying that now he’s another person living in his body. It’s not literally Christ living inside his flesh taking the place of the old Saul of Tarsus. Paul’s soul was still there united with his same body. He was still the same human person. His favorite foods didn’t change, and he still had his old memories and skills.
But there was a difference after he had come to Christ repentantly and in faith. Since he was now rejoined to fellowship with God through Christ his old relationship with sin was gone. He knew he still sinned and was tempted, but sin wasn’t his master anymore (Romans 6:18, “and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness”). In this new relationship he could recognize sin’s deceptions, and by God’s grace and power he is able to be working to overcome them.
Paul knew he couldn’t accomplish any thing good without Christ. He adds in verse 20,
This new life wasn’t one of self-dependence or self-effort. He rested his hope in, and drew his strength from, his Savior who conquered sin and death for him. So he prayed, studied God’s word, was faithful in regular worship, and he fellowshipped with other believers to be strengthened and encouraged by them. Paul continued to live trusting in the faith that comes from Christ, the Son of God. (see detailed translation footnote *)
It’s a wonderful relief to know that the Living Savior is there in whom we are to trust. No one is left to live to honor God by his own power and intent.
As persons re-united into fellowship with God we have those personal covenant promises to encourage and strengthen us. We have his word to guide us and the Holy Spirit to give us true wisdom and understanding.
The motive behind this amazing provision is Christ’s love. Jesus is that one,
Paul’s great hope wasn’t in his own skills and determination. It wasn’t in the good circumstances of life. It was based upon the Suffering Servant, our Lord Jesus Christ. It was the amazing love of God that sent the Savior to die for the undeserving, and to apply it to the unworthy like each of us. It was that love of God that put faith in Christ where there was doubt and faith in foolish substitutes. That love replaced death with life, and blesses where only condemnation was deserved.
Jesus, our resurrected and living Savior submitted to an early, disgraceful, and painful death for those who didn’t seriously care about the glory and commands of the Creator. By his grace, he made his people able to care, to love, and to obey. We have so much to be thankful for.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)
* (translation footnote on Galatians 2:20): It’s challenging to bring into clear English the various ways the genative forms of the nouns and particles of the Koine Greek language were used at the time of Paul’s epistle. Literally the word order of this part of the sentence goes this way in the original Greek:
“en pistei zō tae tou huiou tou theou”
(ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ)
The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary explains it this way,
A smoothed out literal translation would be, “in faith I am living in that (which is) of the Son of God,”