Galatians 2:15-21
The Christ Within

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. What is the real experience of the Christian faith? It could be expressed in various statements. But, as far as the following words from Paul, it seems to me that there are no words that put it as adequately and as concisely as these. "The one who lives is not I. Christ is living in me," (verse twenty). The faith life means exactly the living out of these words as our own. I would like for us to muse over this statement given to us during this week's time of worship.

The One Who Lives Is Not I

2. "The one who lives is not I." That's how Paul put it. It means "I am already dead." No, Paul wasn't dead. Since he was alive he was writing this letter. But, in all reality, Paul considered himself dead [though] he was alive. Taking this even further, he doesn't just claim he was dead, but said that "I am crucified with Christ," (verse nineteen). No, he wasn't being crucified. He is writing this epistle. Nonetheless, Paul considers himself as a person who has been crucified and has exposed his corpse. What does all this mean to say?

3. In order to understand these words of Paul, let's back up a bit in [his] letter. In verse sixteen Paul was saying that, "However, knowing that a person is not [justified by] the works of the law, but is justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone, we too have believed in Jesus Christ. That is, we have not received justification by the works of the law but by faith in Christ, for by the works of the law no one ever has been made righteous," (verse sixteen).

4. The word "be made righteous" is found here in the text. It means "to be recognized as a righteous person." God is righteous. So the natural thing to deduce from that is that "In order to live in a relationship with a righteous God we have to be righteous." We have got to be recognized as righteous people by God. We must be absolutely pure in righteousness and justice. In order to be just, we must be righteous people by fulfilling every requirement of a righteous God.

5. On this point the Jews had one thing to be proud of. It was the boast that "We have the law of God," which meant that they knew what a righteous God was demanding of them. Therefore, they called the Gentiles "sinners" and scorned them [because] they lived their lives ignorantly of what God required. The way the Jews used to think as a whole was as verse fifteen says, "We are Jews from birth and not sinners like the Gentiles."

6. But, Paul takes up that statement and takes issue with it. We definitely do have the law. We do know what the demands of a righteous God are. But, is there ever a person who has truly been considered righteous by his or her works, by completely executing [God's requirements]? No, there is no such a person. Paul put it as "By the works of the law, nobody is justified," (verse sixteen).

7. "Nobody is justified." This is not actually the literal of it, but is a quote from the Psalms. Psalm one hundred and forty-three has the following words, "Please do not apply your judgment upon your servant. The one considered righteous in your sight is not among the living," (Psalm 143:2). With deep insight, the Jews from ancient times have already made that confession in regard to themselves and in regard to humanity, and Paul is also in agreement with these words. Paul too, who had wished to be justified by the law, could not help but come to that [same] conclusion.

8. There is no one ever who has been considered righteous by completely fulfilling the righteous requirements of God. It has nothing to do with being a Gentile or a Jew. Since that is a fact, it leads to the fact that as beings unrecognized by God as righteous and under the judgment of God, everyone must die. And the truth is, we are no exception.

9. But, as Paul makes these statements he also makes another statement. He knew one huge fact of importance. What did he know? Please look at verse sixteen again. "Knowing that a person is not [justified by] the works of the law, but is justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone, we too have believed in Jesus Christ." He said that. Paul, who could not help but admit that the way was shut tight for sinful humanity to be justified by the works of the law, knew that another way was opened from there. It was the way of faith in Jesus Christ.

10. When Paul speaks about Jesus Christ, it is always the crucified Christ. Earlier, we all said as beings unrecognized as righteous by God and under the judgment of God, we must die. However, there is Someone who took away the judgment that we deserved to receive, and all the wrath of God and the curse of God that we deserved to receive. It is Jesus Christ. He died cursed upon the cross for us, even though he himself was righteous having been totally obedient to God.

11. Paul states in regard to this Christ Jesus that "We too have believed in Christ Jesus." In Japanese we don't understand it so easily in our language, but it is written in the Bible as "(to believe) in Jesus Christ." In other words, we are to become one with Christ by throwing our entire being into Christ. "I am not justified by the works of the law. I am only dying as a person under condemnation. We only turn ourselves over to you, the crucified one." [We] say that and then surrender our persons over to Christ.

12. So as we become one with Christ that way, Christ's death becomes our death. Even though we are not actually dead, we are made into persons who have already been judged for our sin and have died. Even though we have not been crucified and have died, we are made into persons crucified, cursed, and deceased. God considers us in that way. It's as Paul put it, "I am crucified with Christ." The condemnation is already passed over. As persons joined to Christ in that way and as persons dead with Christ, God recognizes us as righteous.

Christ Lives In Me

13. Verses seventeen and eighteen, which come next, are difficult to understand, so various interpretations on it have been made. I'm not going to present them to you one by one today. Everyone, feel free to ponder different thoughts on this. [But], in regard to the question here of "... Does Christ lead one to become a servant of sin?," I would like for us to remember just one thing, that Paul spoke with finality on this, saying, "That is not true in any way." [God forbid it to be so.]

14. "A person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ alone." There are more than a few people, both in ancient times and nowadays, who have read this simply swapping it as "Even if you don't do the works of the law, you will be justified." In other words, they think, "Even if you are not righteous before God, you will be justified. Even if you sin like always and continue to rebel against God, you will in the end be justified after all." Even when we read The Epistle To The Roman Disciples we find the words, "Should we remain in sin so that grace will increase?," (Romans 6:1).

15. So with all that it is quite natural that the comments that "Christianity causes people to lose their moral sensibilities, and creates a people who easily sin taking advantage of the words 'We are justified but not based on the law,'" that is, the criticism that "Christ is a servant to sin," starts happening. However, Paul refutes that criticism on every count. Did they say, "Christ is a servant to sin?" Paul would reply that that is just not true! Where lies the problem then? The problem lies in easily swapping into the text the twist, "Even though a person does not practice the works of the law, he will be justified."

16. Read it carefully. Paul says, a person "is justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone." It's all about the relationship with this one called "Jesus Christ" being decisively important. By believing in Jesus Christ, by throwing ourselves in Jesus Christ, by becoming one with Jesus Christ, by taking part in his death, by being crucified with Christ, we are justified. And Christ was not just crucified. Christ rose again from the dead. If we are joined to the crucified Christ, we are joined to the risen Christ as well and we should be becoming one with him. If we have a part in Christ's death, we ought to be having a part in Christ's life as well. The reason a person is made dead with Christ is to have a part in Christ's life and to live anew.

17. Paul said, "In order to live unto God, I have died unto the law through the law." The reason we are justified not based on the works of the law is so that we no longer live unconnected to God the giver of the law. It is so that we don't live unconcerned about God's will and God's requirements. It is so that we can't ever get comfortable about living in rebellion against God. "It is so that we live towards God. It is so that being pointed steadfast unto God, we will live for God," says Paul. Then, Paul expresses the new life where we not only have taken a part in Christ's death, but have also taken a part in Christ's life using the following words: "Christ is living in me."

18. Way back when in the world of the Old Testament, there was no general concept of a "messiah living in me." This is brand new ground opened up by the coming of the Christ-Messiah, by his crucifixion and resurrection, and by his ascension and the Holy Spirit's descent. In his saying that Paul the Pharisee and the Jew became Paul the Christian, it is the same as his becoming a person making the statement that "The one who lives is not I. Christ is living in me." For us as well, life from day to day as a Christian is but to live with the statement that "Christ is living in me." I would like for us to seek from here on out that we live this statement in its true sense of meaning as our very own confession.

 
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