World English Bible translation
2:15"We, being Jews by nature, and not Gentile sinners, 2:16 yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through the faith of Jesus Christ, even we believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law, because no flesh will be justified by the works of the law. 2:17 But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a servant of sin? Certainly not! 2:18 For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a law-breaker. 2:19 For I, through the law, died to the law, that I might live to God. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That 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. 2:21 I don't make void the grace of God. For if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing!"
In yesterday's lesson we had a most unusual confrontation. Paul accused Peter of hypocrisy before the whole congregation at Antioch. Peter had been worshipping and fellowshipping freely with Gentile believers in Antioch. Then some men came from Jerusalem that did not believe that Gentiles and Jews should freely associate, even within the church. Peter separated himself from the Gentiles out of deference to these Jerusalem men. So Paul, the outsider who had persecuted the church rebuked the leader of Christ's own Twelve for his hypocritical actions toward Gentiles.
In the Greek text there is no way to discern where Paul's rebuke leaves off and his preaching begins again. There are no quotation marks in the original texts. The gist of the rebuke and the preaching are both the same; salvation is not an issue of Gentile or Jew - salvation is the work of God on those that are justified by faith in Christ.
Those that are Jews by nature (i.e. Peter and Paul) know that a man is not justified (saved) by the works of the law. The Jews that now accepted Jesus as their savior by faith knew that only through that faith was there any salvation from sin. The works of the law were fulfilled in the finished work of Christ. No longer were men separated from God. Christ had opened the door wide that led to God.
But, if this is so then man's obligation to the law had changed as well. There was no longer any reason for the Gentiles to take on the obligations that the law imposed. Paul sought to free men from the law. Through the law, Paul died to the law. Now he was free to live a new life that was devoted to Christ.
Verse 20 is one of the most powerful verses of all scripture. "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Accepting Christ means accepting and participating in the death of Christ. Before we can live in Christ, we must die with Him.
But it is one thing to intellectually say we must die with Christ and another to say what Paul is saying here. "I have been crucified with Christ." Crucifixion was the most severe and painful death possible. Paul is describing a painful separation between one life and another. The kind of separation that Paul himself experienced. But Paul is not just describing a death, but a new kind of life - a completely new kind of experience for mankind. "It is … Christ living in me."
This new life, the new life of Christ living in us, is lived by faith. The works of the law have no part in it. Christ has died to the law so those that live by faith in Christ must die to the law as well. It is not as though we live contrary to the law. The law is holy even as the Son of God is holy. The law is not contrary to the Word of God. But, what is true is that the law no longer binds or obligates Christ or those that follow Him. We have been freed from the law by the crucified body of Jesus of Nazareth that was raised from the dead by the power of God.
Whose life are you living? And whose death? Do you know the power of the Crucified Christ?
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