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Crucified with Christ!

Tom Pennington Galatians 2:19-20


This morning, I'm not going to continue to look at our series "Lies Christians Believe." Lord willing, next Sunday we'll continue that. I started to do that, but you can see that it's communion Sunday, and I just didn't feel the next lie that we were going to be addressing really fit with our celebration of the Lord's Table. And so for that reason, and because it's always my joy to look at what Christ has done for us, I want to take a little break from that study this morning to look at something that, I think, will be appropriate for Lord's Table. Lord willing, again, next Sunday we'll continue to look at "Lies Christians Believe."

In the middle of the first century, about 20 years after Jesus' death and resurrection, the gospel of Jesus Christ came under its severest attack in the history of the Christian church. In Acts 15 we read about a council that was held, a council of the leadership of the early church that gathered in Jerusalem to address this attack on the gospel. Luke makes it very clear in Acts 15:1 what the issue was. "Some men came down from Judea [to Antioch where Paul was] and began teaching the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.'" That was the issue. Acts 15:5 expands on that: "Some of the sect of the Pharisees." Those guys we run into all the time in the gospels who are always a problem for Jesus, some of them claim to have believed. And they "stood up, saying, 'It is necessary to circumcise [the Gentiles] and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.'" If they're going to be saved, they have to jump through these hoops first. The leadership of the church that was gathered (James the half-brother of our Lord, Peter, Paul), the leadership of the church amassed and the Apostles that were there in Jerusalem, together, denounced the views of the Judaizers.

Shortly after the decision of the Jerusalem Council, Paul wrote his first New Testament letter, the letter we call Galatians, where I'd like for us to turn this morning. He wrote this letter to the churches that he had founded in the region of Galatia (roughly equivalent to modern Turkey) on his first missionary journey. These churches were located in cities with names like Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. You read about them in Acts 13-14, in the founding of the churches there.

The gospel in those cities came under attack, and it came under attack from what Paul calls another gospel. This other gospel came from a group we call the Judaizers. Initially, the ideas that gave birth to the Judaizers came from the Pharisees (as you saw in Acts 15) who claimed they'd become Christians. The Judaizers were, essentially, devout Jews who believed that Jesus was their Messiah. But here was the catch. They believed that before someone could be saved by the work of the Messiah, before he could become a real Christian he had to do two things: he had to be circumcised, and he had to agree to keep the Law of Moses. He essentially had to become Jewish. He had to become a Jewish proselyte. To Paul, this wasn't a little thing. In fact, in this letter to the churches in Galatia, he says what they are demanding is actually adding works to the gospel of justification by faith alone. It is, in fact, another gospel, a perversion of the true gospel. So Paul writes this letter, essentially, to defend the gospel, to defend the truth that we are declared right before God by grace alone through faith alone based on the work of Christ alone.

Now in Galatians 2, Paul describes just how important it is that we defend this true gospel at all costs. And he does so by describing a fascinating confrontation, a public confrontation between Paul and the Apostle Peter. Now as I read this passage, I want you to listen to it and follow along in your Bible realizing that this was, in fact, the darkest day in the history of the Christian church, because only one man, the Apostle Paul, stood up for the true gospel. Look at Galatians 2, beginning in verse 11. Paul writes,

But when Cephas [that is Peter] came to Antioch [this is just above Jerusalem, up in Syria], I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

"We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."

The theme of this paragraph is very clear. That is, the gospel of justification by faith alone is the only way to become right with God, and it must be defended at all costs.

You know, the frightening thing about this passage to me is that it is a reminder that you can deny the truth of the gospel without doing so intentionally or without even saying a word, because in this case Peter compromised the gospel—Are you ready for this?—by where he chose to sit at dinner. Initially, in spite of the differences in the kosher laws between the Jews and the Gentiles, Peter, when he got to Antioch, ate with the Gentile believers. He remembered the lesson that he'd learned in Acts 10, you remember, in that vision of the unclean animals and God saying they're no longer unclean, I declare them clean. And soon after that he went to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, and shared the gospel with him. He remembered that lesson. In fact, at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:9, it was Peter who said, "[God] made no distinction between us [Jews] and them [that is, the Gentiles], cleansing their hearts by faith." There's no difference. So Peter gets to Antioch and he eats with the Gentiles, even though they hadn't been circumcised, even though they didn't follow the Jewish dietary restrictions.

And then some men came from Jerusalem. They claimed to be representatives of James, which wasn't true. James had made his statement very clear about this issue at the Jerusalem Council. But they claimed to be representatives of James, and they brought this false gospel with them. They said if Gentiles want to be saved, great, God'll take'em, but they must first be circumcised, and they must commit to keep the Law of Moses. Verse 12 says Peter caved in. He caved in to the peer pressure, and he began gradually to eat only with the Jewish Christians. At the love feast when the church came together and during the week, he only was with Jewish people, and he distanced himself from these Gentile believers. Why? Well, he didn't change his theology. Notice, Paul says he did so in "hypocrisy." In other words, he still had the same theology, he just went along. Why would Peter go along with this? Well, look at the end of verse 12: "Fearing the party of the circumcision." Apparently, Peter was afraid of loosing his influence and popularity in the Jerusalem church where these men had come from, and so he caved in and went along. You see this? The same Peter that denied Christ for fear of a servant girl now denies the gospel for fear of the Judaizers. Verse 13 says it was bad: "The rest of the Jews [that is, the rest of the Jewish Christians there in the church in Antioch] joined him in hypocrisy." It got so bad that even the spiritually mature Barnabas went along. And so, of course, then in verse 14 Paul has to confront Peter publicly.

Notice, in the middle of verse 14 the translators provide some quotation marks. Do you see those? There're quotation marks there in the middle of verse 14. Almost all translations into English do this. It's because Paul is quoting here exactly what he said in that public confrontation of Peter. Now there's some debate about where the direct quotation ends. Some translations, including the ESV which some of you use, stop the quotation of Paul at the end of verse 14. Some translations end the quotation at the end of verse 16. The New American Standard and the NIV, as well as other translations, continue the quotation all the way down to the end of the chapter until Paul addresses the Galatian Christians at the beginning of chapter 3, "You foolish Galatians." In other words—Personally, for a couple of reasons, I think this is the correct view. I think we have, beginning in the middle of verse 14, all the way down through the end of chapter 2, a quotation. Paul allows us to be a fly on the wall and to listen to at least the core of what he said to Peter in that public confrontation.

Now in verse 14, he begins by confronting Peter's inconsistency. He says listen Peter, you're Jewish, but you don't even do as a Jewish person what the Judaizers are demanding that the Gentile Christians do. Then in verses 15-16, Paul gets to the key issue. He said look, this isn't an issue about whether or not the Gentiles ought to be circumcised. This is an issue about what is the Gospel, on what basis is a person made right with God. That's the real issue. That's the crux of the debate.

The key word in verse 15 and, particularly, verse 16 is justify. The word root refers to a judge pronouncing a verdict about a person who's been accused of a crime. The judge can either issue the verdict of condemnation and condemn him as guilty, or the judge can justify him. That is, proclaim him to have no guilt before the Law. Either he's condemned as guilty or he's justified, he's declared right before the Law. So to justify, then, is to be declared right before God's Law. That's what we're talking about. How can a man or woman be right with God?

By the way, that's the eternal question. Isn't? We all have that question. We know we're sinners. You know you're a sinner. You know you violated God's Law, as I know I have. So how can we as sinners be right before a holy and just and righteous God? That's always the question. In verse 16, Paul answers that question.

By the way, this idea of justification or condemnation, those being opposites? You see that in various places in the Scripture. You remember in Romans 8:33-34? Paul says, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? [There's that courtroom terminology.] God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?" There are the opposites. You're either condemned in the courtroom of God's justice, or you're justified in the courtroom of God's justice.

So the question, the sort of $64,000 question is how can I, a sinner, be declared right in the courtroom of God's justice? The answer's in verse 16. In fact, Paul repeats it three different times in this one verse to make sure you don't miss it. A man is not declared right in God's courtroom by "the works of the Law." By "works of the Law" here, he's talking about any human effort, any human effort at obeying, obeying God's Law, obeying my own laws. Any human effort. He says a man is not declared right with God "by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus." He repeats it. So since that's true, he makes it personal. "We have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law." (Emphasis added.) And just in case we missed it, he repeats at the end a universal statement. He quotes Psalm 143:2. "Since by the works of the Law no flesh [that is, no living mortal person] will be [declared right before God]."

You got it? There're two ways. There's the way of being declared right before God by your works, what you do, and that isn't going to happen, Paul says. The only other way is through faith in Christ Jesus. So in verses 15-16, Paul denies that any human effort or any human work or any human obedience can produce a verdict before God in which He declares us to be right before Him and before His Law. It won't happen.

Now in verse 17, Paul answers one of the charges the Judaizers brought. They said look, if you teach people that, if you teach them they don't have to keep the Law as a way to earn God's declaration of right before Him, then they're just going to live however they want; you're going to encourage sin. That's the accusation in verse 17, and Paul responds to it. He says listen, if you're saying I'm encouraging people to be sinners, then you're not just saying I'm doing it, you're saying Christ is doing it, because I'm just teaching exactly what He taught. You're saying He's a minister of sin, if you're saying that what I'm teaching encourages sin, because I'm just being consistent with what Jesus taught about how we're made right with God. You remember the parable of the publican who beat on his breast and said God, be merciful to me, a sinner? What did Jesus say? He went down to his house—what? Justified. A terrible sinner declared right with God solely by his repentance and faith. So he says I'm being consistent with Christ. So if you keep accusing me of promoting sin, you're accusing Christ of promoting sin. In fact, verse 18, Paul says—He turns the tables on them. He says if you try to seek to be justified by keeping the Law, it's you that become the sinner, not me. Why is that? Well, because they can never live up to the standard that they themselves set. If we're going to be declared right before God based on keeping the Law, there isn't anybody going to meet that standard. So they declare themselves transgressors simply by putting that in place.

So if the Law doesn't justify, what is our current relationship to the Law? In verses 19-20, Paul answers that question. This is where I want us to look in the few moments we have remaining. Paul describes here our new relationship to the Law. Look at verses 19-20:

For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Notice, he begins, "[by] the Law." That is, not contrary to the Law, not out of step with the Law, but by or through what the Law demands "I died to the Law." Underline that, underscore that. That is the key to verses 19-20. "I died to the Law." But what does that mean? First of all, let me tell you what it doesn't mean, because there has been a lot of bad teaching from this passage, a lot of misunderstandings have been created from misunderstanding the passage. Let me tell you what it doesn't mean.

First of all, it does not mean, when it says "I died to the Law," it does not mean that the Christian is dead to the appeal and power of sin. There are those who take you to this passage and would say, "That's it, sin's over for you as a Christian." I want to say, "And what planet do you live on?" Read Romans 7. Read the struggle with sin that continues in the heart of a Christian. He's not saying that I'm dead to the appeal and power of sin.

Secondly, he's not saying that I should daily crucify the sin in my life. That's what some take this to mean. When we get to "I have been crucified with Christ," they say I should be crucifying myself with Christ each day. Now that is true, and it's taught in other places. That's not what Paul is teaching here. Notice, here whatever it is has already happened to me: "I died." He's not talking about what I should do but understanding what has already occurred, what God has already done.

A third thing this doesn't mean is that the Christian, as a deliberate act in the past, renounced sin. That's what even one of the most notable commentators on Romans says, and I have to totally disagree with that. When he gets to the similar passage in Romans, he makes this point. In other words, he says look, Paul reached a point in his Christian life where he said OK, I'm done with sin. I'm done, I don't want to deal with it anymore, I don't want to have anything to do with it, I'm making a conscience decision to leave sin. That's taught popularly by Charles Ryrie and others as sort of a second stage of Christianity. That's not what this passage is teaching.

So what does it mean that we have died? Well, the answer comes from the next verse. Paul answers that question, verse 20. Here's what it means, "I died." "I have been crucified with Christ." Notice, it doesn't say I am being crucified with Christ. It's the perfect tense: it happened in the past, and it has continuing results. Something happened to me in the past, and it happened to all Christians, the way Paul expresses it here. It happened to all Christians in the past, and there's continuing results. What does it mean? Let me tell you what it means, and then we'll sort of let it flow out of the text of Galatians. It means that at the moment I trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation, I became a spiritual participant in Jesus' crucifixion. Let me say that again. The moment I trusted in Christ for salvation, I became a spiritual participant in Jesus' crucifixion. I died with Him.

Now, Paul further explains what he means here and builds this out in Galatians 3. Look down in 3:10: "For as many as are of the works of the Law [That is, as many of us who are under the Law; that's everybody.] [we] are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them.'" "All things." To be justified before God, to be declared right with God based on what we do in obedience in keeping His Law, you've got to keep it all. And if you don't, you're cursed; that is, you're under the penalty for having violated it. So, that's where we were. We had all broken God's Law. The Law declared us cursed, worthy of death.

But here's the good news. When Jesus came into the world, He came, (notice 4:4) He was "born under the Law." In other words, under the jurisdiction of God's Law, just like us. And, of course, He kept it perfectly. But when He died on the cross, when He hung on the cross, (notice back in 3:13) "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law." He redeemed us from that death penalty the Law brought on us because of our violations of it. How? "Having become a curse for us." Wow! Listen to what Paul is saying. He's saying, we got the guilty verdict, we got the sentence of death, but on the cross God credited our guilty verdict and our death sentence to Christ; and Christ died in our place because of the fact that God imputed to Him our guilty verdict and our death sentence. He got what I deserved. He got what you deserved, if you're in Christ.

That's what Paul means when he says we died. We were crucified with Christ. We have been crucified with Christ. He was condemned for our failure to keep God's Law. He was cursed or sentenced to die for our sin, and when He died in our place, in the sight of the Law we died. That means the Law has no more jurisdiction over us, because the Law's demands of me, the Law's guilty verdict of me (because I hadn't met those demands) and the sentence of death that the Law gave me for failing to keep it, they all went away, because they were all completely and ultimately and finally satisfied in Jesus' death in my place. Because when Jesus died, He satisfied all the claims of the Law. It's as if I died as a guilty criminal that day with Jesus. That's what Paul is saying.

Now, five years after Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians, approximately five years, He wrote the letter to the Romans. And what here is in embryonic form becomes full grown in his letter to the Romans. Turn back to Romans 6. He's just explained the doctrine of justification by faith alone (the reality that God declares us righteous based on the work of Christ, and we receive that by faith), and he realizes there're going to be those who say wait a minute, that's just going to encourage people to sin. And so he answers that beginning in 6:1. He says is that true?

Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we [And here he says the same thing.] who died to sin still live in it?

What do you mean, Paul? Verse 3, "Do you not know that all of us [every believer, without exception] who have been baptized into Christ Jesus." There's no water in this verse, by the way. It's immersed. Those "who have been [immersed] into Christ," placed into Christ, we have been immersed with Him "into His death." We died with Him. Verse 4, "We have been buried with Him"; we've been raised to new life with Him. We were united to Him in His death, His burial, and His resurrection. What that means, folks, is we died to the Law. We died to its demands on us.

Look at Romans 7:1. He ends chapter 6 with that famous verse, "The wages of sin is death." And then he says, but guess what? Romans 7:1, "Do you not know, brethren... that the Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?" You die? The Law isn't over you anymore. Look down at verse 4: "You also were made to die to the Law through [the death of] the body of Christ, so that you might be joined... to Him who was raised from the dead." Therefore (verse 6) you "have been released from the Law [There's the bottom line.], having died to that by which we were bound, so that [now we're alive to] serve in the newness of the Spirit and not the oldness of the letter." We still seek to obey God, but we're not bound by the requirement to somehow make ourselves acceptable to God, to make ourselves right with God by our actions.

Let me let me give it to you this way. Suppose in our American criminal justice system, suppose that a convicted criminal was sentenced to death for his crimes. And that convicted criminal actually is executed. He actually dies for the crimes he's committed. And the attending physician comes over and validates that the criminal is in fact dead. He is legally dead,. He has died for his crimes. But suppose, through some sort of strange set of circumstances, a few moments later he revives; he's resuscitated. That would raise a huge legal question. Can a man who has already died for his crimes be executed for those crimes a second time? That goes to the issue of our double jeopardy, the fact that there can be no double jeopardy in the legal system. You can't face the same crime and its payment twice. That's true in God's courtroom as well. If you died fulfilling the demands of the Law that God had of you, then it's done. And that's exactly what happened when Jesus died in your place. In the eyes of God, you died, you died to the demands the Law had. I was crucified with Christ, and I no longer have the sentence of death hanging over my head, so, verse 19 says, I can "live to God."

Now the rest of verse 20 lists the results of my death with Christ. And I'm not going to spend a lot of time here, but I just want you to think about this. I just want to plant these seed thoughts in your mind. OK, I died with Christ, what are the results of that? Well first of all, my old self died. Look at verse 20. Paul writes, "I have been crucified with Christ." That's talking about what happened in the past. I died with Christ on the cross, and therefore "it is no longer I who live." He's not saying he's not alive, he's saying the person I used to be is dead. That person who deserved to die, died. I died to the demands of the Law as a way of gaining a right standing before God. I died to my personal guilt for having violated God's Law. I died to the penalty that my violations of God's Law demanded. So in the eyes of the Law I am—what? Dead. God's justice has been fully satisfied.

Look back at Romans 6. Paul makes this point again in even clearer terms in Romans 6:6. He says this is what we know:

That our old self [the person we used to be] was crucified with [Jesus], in order that our body of sin [That's just another way to refer to our old self, the person we used to be.] might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, ...we shall also live with Him.

We're going to be raised with Him from the dead. An amazing statement.

Do you understand that the person you used to be before Christ doesn't exist anymore? There's some bad teaching around that says that within every believer there's the old person you used to be, still there, and now there's a new person. So you're like this person who's somehow divided, and there're two of you battling one another. That's not the biblical model. The biblical model is you became a new person in Jesus Christ. The old you died. Now you still have the flesh (is what Paul calls it in Romans 6) which is that part of you that's unredeemed, that part of you that has its beachhead in your body. It's not your body but has its beachhead in your body which is not redeemed, and it's constantly struggling against you. But you, the real you, you're not the person you were. The old self died.

I love how John Stott describes this. He says,

Our biography [your biography] is in two volumes. Volume one is the story of the old man, the old self, of me before conversion. Volume two is the story of the new man, the new self, of me after I was made a new creation in Christ. [Stott goes on to say] Volume one of my biography ended with the judicial death of the old self. I was a sinner. I deserved to die. I did die. I received my desserts in my substitute with whom I have become one. Volume two [he goes on to say] of my biography opened with my resurrection, my old life having finished, a new life with God began.

That's the reality. Your old self died.

So the first result of my death to the Law is that my old self died. The second result is that my new self is empowered by Jesus Christ Himself. Notice verse 20 again. He says, "I have been crucified with Christ [I died with Christ.]; and [therefore] it is no longer I who live [My old self died.], but Christ lives in me." Not only is the old me dead, but I am a new person in Jesus Christ. In addition to God's legal verdict of righteous about me, a radical change has occurred in me and to me. That change is called regeneration. I became a new person at the moment of salvation.

The Bible uses three beautiful pictures to describe that reality. Here's what happened to you. If you're a Christian, here's what happened to you at the moment of salvation. It's described as birth. Jesus does this in John 3. You remember? Talking to Nicodemus, He says a man must be born from above. A new birth. It's like you're born again. It's born spiritually, born with the life of God. Many of us have had the opportunity to witness the miracle of human birth. That's what happened to you the day you came to Jesus Christ. It's like the old you died, and there was a birth of a new person.

There's a second image the New Testament uses, and that is creation. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new"—what? Creation. It's like God just cleared the table and started over and made something new entirely. That's you, if you're in Christ. That's what happened when you came to Christ.

There's a third image that the New Testament uses to describe this radical change. It is resurrection. Ephesians 2 says you were a flatliner before Christ. You were dead in trespasses and sins, but God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love where with He loved us, "made us alive." We were dead; He resurrected us. That's what happened to you on the day you came to Christ. Not only did God declare you to be right with Him based on the fact that you died in Christ and He satisfied all the claims of the Law, negative and positive, but He also changed you. The old self is gone; the new self is there. We are changed at every level. We have a new mind that can understand the things of God, unlike the unregenerate mind, according to 1 Corinthians 2. We have a new heart that loves God instead of loving just ourselves. We have a new will that, instead of just wanting to do our own desires, longs to obey God. Incredible. Listen, that radical change that has happened to you is accomplished through the indwelling power of Jesus Christ.

Look at Romans 8:9. Paul has been contrasting those who are unregenerate and are in the flesh with those who are regenerate and are in the Spirit. And he says this in Romans 8:9:

However, you are not in the flesh [that is, you're not unregenerate] but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have [watch this] the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin [in other words, that unregenerate part of you is dead to God], [the person you are, your spirit, your soul] is alive because of righteousness.

And here's the good news. If Christ is in you, if His Spirit has indwelt you and taken up residence in you, then verse 11 says, "If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, [guess what?] He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." In other words, He's going to continue to perfect you in your soul and, eventually, (goes on in Romans 8 to describe) in your body as well. You're going to get a new body that's made in perfection. Wow! You believe that? Do you believe what Paul is saying? He is saying that you died with Jesus in the mind of God, and the old self is dead, and now you are a new person. Volume two has started of your life story.

There's a third result of my having been crucified with Christ: my new life is a life of faith in Jesus Christ. That new person that I am is characterized by this. Look at verse 20: "And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God." Notice, we continue to "live in the flesh." Here, by "flesh," he doesn't mean the unredeemed part of us. He switches the meanings of those terms. Here he means our mortal bodies. We continue to live in our mortal bodies.

By the way, that contradicts a sort of popular-level idea that's out there that's connected with Watchman Nee and other deeper-life writings. I call it "deeper life" because they say there's something more than just trusting God and obeying the Scripture. You need to have this sort of mystical experience, and they describe it. And I read a lot of this when I was younger, and it terribly influenced my thinking. It's like your personality ceases to be. If you really want to be spiritual, it's like you take this background and like you're watching yourself from the back of your mind somewhere, and Jesus is living out in His personality through your body.

That's not at all what this says. Paul is saying I still live life in the flesh. I'm still here. The Apostles and all the New Testament authors, their personalities didn't change. They retained their own personalities. They just became increasingly sanctified. Peter's still Peter, as we saw. Paul's still Paul. You see, to be like Christ doesn't mean that we have the same personality as Jesus, it means we have the same moral character as Jesus. So we continue living in the flesh, in our mortal human bodies.

And notice the dominant characteristic of this new life that we have. It is "faith in the Son of God." "I live by faith in the Son of God." It is an unwavering reliance on Jesus Christ. Listen folks, the Christian life is not about a set of rules and regulations. It's about a person. Salvation's about a person. The Christian life's about a person. It's about the Son of God. He's identified here as the Christ, the Messiah, and the unique Son of God. He is the object of our faith. And He's the object of our faith in two ways. He's the object of our faith for salvation. Look back in 2:16. That's what Paul says. This is how we are justified: "Through faith in Christ Jesus." We believe in His perfect life and in His death on our behalf as our only hope of being right before God. That's what it means to have faith in Jesus: I commit myself to Him as Lord and Savior, as my only hope. But, it doesn't stop there. Paul isn't talking here in verse 20 about looking back to the moment of salvation, he's talking about today. "I live [I am living today] by faith in the Son of God." He becomes the object of our faith for the power to live out our Christian lives every day.

Look at Hebrews 12:2. Here the Christian life is likened to a race. Some of us like to run. Congratulations to you guys. There are others of us who don't. But like it or not, the Christian life is a race. And notice how we're to run it, verse 2. We're to run it with our eyes fixed on Jesus, who is the author of our faith and the perfecter of our faith. In other words, we live out our Christian lives, the race in which we're involved, with Jesus Christ as the constant object of our faith. Is that how you think of your Christian life? Did you get up this morning reminding yourself that you can only do today what needs to be done in a way that will honor your Lord and Savior if He supplies the strength you need? What did Jesus say in that wonderful illustration of the vine and the branches in John 15? Without Me you can do—what? Nothing. You believe that? That's what Paul's saying. Today, as a Christian, I live by faith in the Son of God.

Our faith is in Christ. Our faith is in His life and death and resurrection as our hope of heaven. Our faith is in His Word to us through the Apostles. And—I love this.—our faith is also is in His personal love for each of us individually. Look at the end of verse 20. Paul says, "The Son of God, [And he makes it really personal.] who loved me and gave Himself up for me." I want to come back to that, because I think that's really important to apply. But I'll get there in a moment.

What are the implications of this great text for us? Let me just give you a few, very quickly. Number one. To gain a right standing before God, we must repudiate every shred of human merit or human effort. You must deny any contribution on your part to being right with God. If you're going to become a follower of Jesus Christ—and I'm not assuming that everyone here this morning is. If you want to be a follower of Jesus Christ, here's how it works. You first have to renounce everything. You have to give up everything but Jesus Christ as your ground of getting a right standing before God. If you put your hope and trust in anything else, then you cannot become His follower or His disciple, and you must give up everything but faith as the means of securing what Jesus has done for you. It can't be faith and your baptism, faith and your credentials, faith and your efforts. You have to repudiate it all but Christ and faith in Him alone. That's what Paul says. Study this passage.

Number two. As believers, we must beware of the temptation to add human effort into salvation. Folks, understand this: it is always a temptation. It was for the Galatians. Look back in Galatians 1:6. Paul says to them—right out of the gate as he begins this letter, he says, "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel." And it's a temptation for us today as well, because we are born human with the thought that we can somehow be right with God by our own efforts. My children were born thinking they could be right with God by their own efforts, and so were your children, and so were you. In fact, Spurgeon said, "So insidious is the human heart longing to have a part of salvation, that if we can't get ourselves to heaven, we're content to have a small part in the last mile." Beware.

Number three. We must willing to identify and fight every false gospel. Listen, if you love the true gospel, you'll hate the false gospel. Look back in Galatians 1. Paul says, let any other gospel than the one you have received (verses 8-9), if I bring it or if an angel brings it, let him be anathema, let him be consigned to hell, let him be damned. We have to hate the false gospel and identify it.

So,—And I'm not going to develop this. I just want to raise a question in your mind.—who are the Judaizers of our day? Who are the people in our day who claim to be part of the Christian faith but add works to the requirement? Well one example, of course, would be the Roman Catholic Church. Another example would be, in our area, the Church of Christ, many of them, who insist that baptism is necessary for salvation. That is, in principle, no different than requiring, as the Judaizers did, a person to be circumcised. Both are commanded by God (circumcision was in the Old Testament, baptism in the New), but to require them for salvation is, in Paul's mind, to create another gospel. The evangelical version of this is the Christian who sort of sits and contemplates his or her own navel about "Well, I'm looking back to that day, and did I have enough faith? Is God going to be happy with my faith and my repentance?" Pretty soon we're turning faith and repentance into works and thinking that it's what we did that's going to make God receive us instead of it's what Christ did for us. We must fight every false gospel.

Number four. We must live our lives with unwavering reliance in Christ as the source of our salvation and the source of our spiritual lives. "[Without] Me you can do nothing." "The life which I now live... I live by faith in the Son of God."

And Number five. And I love this. We must understand and live in light of the personal love and sacrifice of Christ for us as individuals. He loved me. Leon Morris writes:

It's true the Son of God loved the world. Christ died on the cross for the salvation of those who trust Him throughout the world, throughout the centuries. But it's one thing to know intellectually the Son of God died for the whole world, and another to be able to say with Paul, the Son of God loved me and gave Himself up for me.

May God enable you to trust His Word. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for the Cup. Thank You so much for the reminder from the Apostle Paul this morning that our only hope is found in His sacrifice, our only hope is found in what Jesus did for us: His life and His death and His resurrection. Father, help us as believers to live out our faith in Him day in and day out to His glory. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.