Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Galatians 2: Crucified with Christ



Gal 2:15-21 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, 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. 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. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

In the first chapter of Galatians, Paul re-traces his conversion and his calling to be apostle to the Gentiles. Born a Jew, he was subject to the Law of Moses. As a Jew, he knows from personal experience that on one can be justified by the works of the law. In fact, the law only condemns all as sinners. So if anyone wants to be justified (declared righteous) before God it cannot be by the law, for "a person is not justified by works of the law." While the law serves its purpose to explain and expose sins, the law cannot justify anyone before God because we are all born sinners. Like criminals before the Law Court, we have been found guilty of breach of the laws, even if we were ignorant of the law. But when the law is read to us, we have to admit to our guilt.

An analogy might help us understand the role of the law in condemning us. Singapore has this infamous "3/4 tank" law that forbids Singaporeans from driving over the causeway to Johore Bahru (JB) to top up their vehicle fuel tanks to take advantage of the cheaper petrol there. Before this law came into effect in the Parliament, we could drive up near-empty tank over to JB in order to re-enter Singapore with a full-tank. But when the law came in (first 1/2 tank, then later amended to 3/4 tank), it becomes a crime to drive over to JB when our tank is not at least 3/4 full. Before the law was passed, we were perfectly justified to enter JB with near-empty fuel-tanks. But today, it is a "sin" to enter JB if our fuel tanks are less than 3/4 tank full. If we break the law, we are liable to be charged in court of law. The only way we can be freed from this 3/4 tank law is to die to the Singapore laws--by becoming a citizen of another country not subject to Singapore law.

So Paul declares that as believers, we have been "crucified with Christ" for Christ has fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the law of Moses and therefore freed from its condemnation. So, now all believers share in his crucifixion and therefore died in Him to the Law: "For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ." (v.19-20). In other words, by participating in Christ in his death and resurrection, we die to the law's power to condemn us (we have become citizens of Christ's kingdom, where the Law of Moses are non-operative). So, we are no longer judged by the Law of Moses. We have been set free from it for we die to it when we trusted Christ and therefore were crucified with Him.

As citizens of Christ's kingdom, we live under a new law, called the law of faith: "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" (v.20). So, as a Christian, my accountability is no longer to the Law of Moses but to Christ, the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.

While we are freed from Moses' Law, we do not become "lawless" people, doing whatever we like. We now live by the law of faith, which has very much to do walking by the Holy Spirit as we shall see in the later chapters of Galatians. However, being set free from the Law's condemnation does not mean we are set free from the Law's obligations.

But as of now, we can affirm the truth that all believers have died to the Law because all believers have been crucified with Christ.

Lord, thank  You that in You, we have been set free from the condemnation of the Law of Moses, for You have transferred us from the old law kingdom to the new faith kingdom. Amen.

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