Galatians 2:20 ESV
“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.”
This Present Evil Age
When these words were written, the church was dealing with the problem of Judaizers trying to convince Gentile Christians that they had to be circumcised, and that they had to adhere to at least some of the Jewish religious ceremonial, liturgical, and sacrificial laws from under the Old Covenant, but which included some of their own rules and traditions.
Many people today are interpreting these teachings to say that we are to be lawless, that we do not have to obey any laws of God, that we do not have to turn away from sins, and that we do not have to submit to Jesus as Lord (owner-master) of our lives. But that is not what this is teaching, which is evident if you read the whole book (the letter) of Galatians in context.
For, Paul began the letter by stating that Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Gal 1:4-5).
Our salvation from sin is not just deliverance from the penalty of sin, but it is deliverance from this present evil age, that we would no longer participate in that evil age – that we would not be partakers in all its idolatry, immorality, and corruption, so we would no longer live for sin and for self, but that we would now live for God and for his righteousness (1 Pet 2:24).
A “Different” Gospel
And then Paul went on to talk about how there were people among them who were trying to trouble them by distorting the gospel of Christ. They were preaching a gospel contrary to the one the apostles taught, and the people were turning to this “different gospel” which was contrary to the grace of God. So, Paul said that anyone teaching this “different gospel” should be accursed.
And today we still have people among us who are distorting the gospel that the apostles taught, and who are teaching a “different gospel.” They are also distorting Paul’s words here in Galatians 1 where he is talking about this “different gospel,” and they are spreading lies, telling people that the true gospel is this “different gospel” and that those of us who are teaching the gospel that the apostles taught is to be accursed.
So, in chapter 2, Paul then went on to talk about how we are saved by faith and not by works of the law. And, again, there are people among us who are twisting that to say that repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ as Lord are works of the law, so they have nothing to do with our salvation. And their followers are often discouraged from obeying the Lord and rather are being given carte blanche to continue in their sins guilt free.
For, “faith” to them is just praying a prayer after someone else to “receive Christ,” or it is confessing with their mouths that Jesus is Lord, or it is a mere acknowledgment of who Jesus is and of what he did for us when he died on that cross for our sins. And some of them are teaching that faith is a mere intellectual acceptance of God’s grace and forgiveness.
So I Might Live to God
But then Paul went on to say that “through the law I died to the law so that I might live to God.” So, you see, he wasn’t saying that we become lawless or that we don’t have to obey the Lord, but that we are not under all those liturgical, ritualistic, ceremonial, purification, and sacrificial laws of the Old Covenant. But the Lord summarized the laws for us in two – love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself.
Therefore, if it is repeated for us in the New Testament, under the New Covenant, then it still applies to us. We still have to obey it. And there are plenty of Scriptures which go into great detail regarding all the sins we are to give up and to put away from ourselves, and then to list for us all the godly qualities that we are to put on, that we are to wear, that are to become a part of our lives (Gal 5:16-24; Eph 4-5; Rom 1:18-32).
Okay, continuing with Galatians 2, we then read verse 20: “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.”
So, when we believe in Jesus Christ, by faith in Christ, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin so that it is no longer us, our flesh, that lives, that reigns, but Christ is now the one reigning over our lives. It is now his life being lived out through us for his glory. It is us surrendering our lives to him and letting him be Lord of our lives. So, that will result in us forsaking our sins and walking in obedience to his commands.
The Desires of the Flesh
So, then let’s move on to Galatians chapter 5. There we read that we must walk (in conduct, in practice) by the Spirit, under the Spirit’s control and direction. Why? Because the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh. These are opposed to each other to keep us from doing the things we want to do.
Okay, it is not saying that we can now do what we “want” to do if what we want to do is contrary to the will of God and if it involves engaging ourselves in sinful practices. It is assuming that we want to do the will of God. So, what are the desires of the flesh which are against the Spirit? Are they repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ as Lord? Of course not!
They are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. And we are being warned here that those who practice (habitually, addictively) such things will NOT inherit the kingdom of God.
So, does this sound like what is being taught in Galatians is that we are free from the law and therefore we are free to sin as much as we want? NO! If we think that we can make sin our practice and be saved from our sins and have eternal life with God we are sadly mistaken. The Scriptures teach that if sin is our practice that we will die in our sins (Rom 8:1-17; 1 Jn 3:4-10).
So, What is Faith?
So, what is this teaching us about faith? It is teaching us that faith involves us desiring the same as the Spirit of God, and it involves us being delivered from evil practices, so it involves us forsaking our sins and following our Lord Jesus in obedience. For, obedience is faith. And obedience means to do the will of God. It doesn’t mean to follow a bunch of ceremonial laws.
And let me close with this from Galatians 6:7-8: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
Do you see what this is saying? Our salvation and eternal life are not guaranteed us on a confession of faith in Jesus Christ. For, we must live the Christian life. We must walk in obedience to our Lord. We must leave our sinful practices behind us. And we must submit to the Lordship of Christ. And we must continue living by this faith until the very end.
For one day we are all going to stand before God and he is not going to judge us on the basis of what we confessed with our lips or said we believed in our hearts, but he is going to judge us by our deeds (Rom 2:6-8). If we sow to please the flesh, we will reap destruction. But if we sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life. So, please believe this!
Songwriter: Andrew Lloyd-Webber
Who takes away the sins of the world
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Give them rest, grant them rest
Dona eis requiem, dona eis requiem
Lamb of God
Who takes away the sins of the world
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Grant them eternal rest
Dona eis requiem