This is Part 2 of a 6-part meditation on Galatians. Part 1, “No Other Gospel,” is available at Galatians 1.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20a ESV)
“Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ … because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16 ESV)
GRACE IS GOD’S FREE GIFT TO MANKIND.
It is a gift that was not chiefly bought nor casually given. In fact, the apostle Paul says our very bodies are temples in which the Holy Spirit lives. “You are not your own,” he writes. “You were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20 BSB).
What boggles the mind is this: Considering the stakes at hand — our eternal, everlasting, without-end destiny — you might think mankind would rush into the open arms of Jesus Christ, thanking Him profusely with tears and hugs for providing God’s grace through His sacrifice on the Cross for us.
You would be wrong.
Most people appear to be stuck on the words “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” and that’s where they stop. They don’t want any part of it, no shifting of controls from me to Him. It’s my life, and I’ll live it the way I want to. Stay back, Jesus.
Unless I need Your help, then I’ll let You know.
DOES THAT BOTHER YOU?
It bothers me.
Aren’t you totally bummed to realize that most of the smiling faces you’ll encounter today are not remotely interested in receiving the grace offered by their Savior, nor are they willing to let Him take the controls of their earthly lives, even though the payoff is eternal life instead of eternal punishment.
Even the introductory clause of having been “crucified with Christ” is a meaningless mess of words for most people, who have no idea what that means.
Really, for most people who have ever lived, the Cross was just a tragic end a long time ago in a primitive culture for a man who might well have been a gifted teacher and, possibly, an extraordinary healer, but it was nothing more than that.
Those who lived before the Cross ignored the law and the prophets.
For those of us who believe, however, it is the most incredible act of love and self-sacrifice the world has ever witnessed — at least, that part of the world that’s paying attention.
Paul, again, tells us that “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NET). The apostle Peter called the crucifixion the shedding of “the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:19 NLT).
But what is that to an unbelieving world?
Paul, again, states it this way: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV).
SO, WE’VE SEEN THAT MOST PEOPLE do not want to cede control over their lives to the One who can give them life, and life abundantly (John 10:10), but what about that second part, about being “justified” by works or by faith? What’s up with that?
“Justification” is just a big word that means a person has been made “righteous in the sight of God.”
Paul says it this way: “not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness (Philippians 3:9 NET, emphasis mine).
In other words, Jesus lived a sinless life, and God credits His righteousness to my account — blotting out my sin-stained life — the moment I accept His Son as my Lord and Savior.
That transfer of Christ’s righteousness for my unrighteousness is my Ticket to Paradise!
The really big deal with that is that the alternative way to earn God’s favor is for me to live a sinless life — and I lost that one a long time ago.
“There is none righteous, no, not one,” Paul writes. “There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. … There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12 NKJV).
The prophet Isaiah was just as blunt, saying that in God’s eyes, “All of us [that includes you and me] have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6 NIV).
Most of us probably figure we’re on the good side of the Bell Curve. We haven’t killed anyone, or cheated on our spouse, or stolen our neighbor’s car, so we’re good.
Not so fast. Not in God’s eyes.
See, God is perfect; we are sinful.
James, the half-brother of Jesus (they shared a mother), tells us this: “If someone obeys all of God’s laws except one, that person is guilty of breaking all of them” (James 2:10 GW).
All of them. Murder. Rape. Adultery. Theft. Slander. Lying.
Lest we think somehow God only keeps a record of what we do, no, He also keeps a record of what we say and what we think, as well.
Try this from Jesus’ own lips: “But what comes out of the mouth [our words] comes from the heart, and this defiles a man” (Matthew 15:18 HCSB).
And what about thoughts? “Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?’” (Matthew 9:4 NIV).
How about this one from Jesus: “You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, ‘You must not murder anyone. Anyone who murders another will be judged. But I tell you, if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be judged’” (Matthew 5:21-22a NCV, emphasis mine).
THERE’S JUST NO WAY AROUND IT.
What we do, God sees as “filthy rags”; what we say, God sees as “defiling” us; and what we think, God sees as “evil.”
So, we are totally dependent for our salvation on Jesus Christ.
Considering how we don’t measure up in God’s eyes, those words from Scripture that we quoted earlier now sound beautiful and reassuring. I have been crucified with Jesus Christ. Christ lives in me. We are justified not by our good works but through faith in the Christ.
Paul said it clearly in Ephesians 2:8 NLT: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”
Now, that’s Grace!
PRAYER: Holy Father, Lord God Almighty, we are so unworthy to approach the throne with our petitions except through the blood of Jesus Christ. Would You forgive us for our lack of faith? Would You soften the hearts of our family members, friends, and neighbors who do not know You or care to learn about You? Would You just grab us in Your loving arms and never let go, even when we act, talk, and think viciously evil, self-defiling filth? God be praised with all power, honor, and glory forever. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your amazing sacrifice for us. Thank You, eternally, Lord Jesus, for claiming us as Your own. Amen