Have you ever come across a verse in the Bible that you almost wished wasn’t there? Occasionally, I’ll read a verse that just doesn’t quite fit into a nice, neat box like I wish it would, and I’ll be challenged to recognize that God is in fact bigger than my little brain can comprehend.
Recently, Galatians 2:20 has been giving me such a pause in my walk. There, Paul writes,
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.
In context, Paul is arguing that man is justified by faith in Christ, not by works of the law. God counts us righteous according to our identification with his Son, not according to our ability to keep the law (which is good news for us, because we all stand condemned before this holy standard – see Romans 3:19-20). This is the heart of the Gospel message, that Christ died for sinners (Romans 5:8).
So what’s the difficulty for me? Simply put, this is a bit too spiritual for me to wrap my mind around, and that makes me uncomfortable.
If you spend time with me, you’ll likely pick up on at least two things. First, I like puns. Second, I over think just about everything. I usually describe myself as being far more academic than emotional or practical. So, I find myself searching for Bible verses, books, and articles that speak to specific needs rather than spending time in prayer. When people come to me with biblical or theological questions, I feel right at home. When people come to share their trials and struggles, I feel my inadequacy to really help them beyond simply sharing those same verses and writings. Simply put, I often live as if the Christian walk is simply a positive affirmation of biblical truths, not an actual relationship with the risen Christ. So, when I catch myself thinking that Paul’s words here sound too spiritual, I’m beginning to recognize that, in reality, I’m not spiritual enough.
This is where Paul’s words hit home for me. His identification with Christ was not only a past tense event, but a present reality. He lived daily by faith in Jesus, not as some intellectual assent, but as a necessary fact of existence. Paul’s life was Christ’s life. He says something similar when he writes,
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
1 Corinthians 15:10
The truth I’m starting to see in these verses is that my life is no longer “my life.” As a Christian, I now walk by faith. Just as I could not save myself, so I cannot sustain myself. Just as I need Christ to be justified, I so need Christ to be sanctified. I cannot, on my own strength, live the life of a Christian; I can only live like Jesus by walking with Jesus. This is difficult for me to grasp. I want to be able to simply affirm the right points, memorize the right Scriptures, and live to the best of my ability. But the reality is that my ability is insufficient apart from Christ. To truly follow him, I must rely on him. I admit that I don’t do this well, and I don’t fully understand how to walk by faith like this. But Christ calls me to abide in him, and I want to be found faithful. I don’t want to simply acknowledge a plan of salvation; I want salvation. I don’t want to simply know about him; I want to know him. And I want to work hard for the Lord, knowing all the while that it is “the grace of God that is with me” by which I live.