The apostle depicts a parallel between Christ's course and ours. Christ's sacrifice was substitutionary. Thus, when He was crucified, and we then accept His death for the forgiveness of our sins, it is as though we were crucified and our sins paid for in full.
However, the parallel does not end there. Sacrifice was a way of life with Jesus Christ, and it is to become our way of life. Every time we obey God's instruction as part of His purpose rather than unresistingly following the dictates of human nature, we are sacrificing ourselves to God and His purpose as a living sacrifice. Every time we sacrifice our time and energy to serve rather than merely pursue our own interests, we are following the patterns shown in the sacrifices of Leviticus and Jesus Christ's life. We are to strive to live just as He lived, and thus the daily sacrifice continues.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering
This introduces us to another Protestant "ditch" we do not want to fall into. They assert that, because it is obvious that we cannot keep the law (because we sin from time to time), Christ kept it for us. "Christ did it all," they say. In so saying, they provide some with an excuse for not even trying to keep it and others with a justification for being passive and careless in their keeping of it.
In these five verses, Paul begins to show that the law is far from being done away and that we have a serious obligation to give our all in obedience to it if Christ lives in us and the fruit of God's Spirit are to be produced in our lives.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Six)
Justification is clearly an act of God's grace, because what we deserve from what we have earned—from what we have done, the conduct of our lives—is death. There is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:1). Since justification, then, cannot be claimed as a right because we have sinned, it must be received as a gift. That fact that it is given makes it an act of grace.
It is not our hanging on to Christ (that is, the keeping of the law) that saves us, but rather Christ hanging on to us. That is, it is not what we do, but it is what He does continuously as acts of grace that saves us, because we deserve death. If we can earn salvation through law-keeping, Paul is saying in verse 21, "then Christ died in vain." If we can earn salvation through law-keeping, then Christ's sinless life and agonizing death were not necessary, because we can do it ourselves.
Justification is not vindication or exoneration. Both of those words connote that a person was right all along, but the true facts were hidden from those who were doing the judging. In some cases with men, vindication is possible because people are judged unrighteously. Their judges are not using righteous judgment.
But God never judges unrighteously! He knows all the facts. He knows our heart. He knows everything about us in every situation that we have ever been in, so He cannot vindicate us because we are not clear of guilt. He cannot exonerate us because we are not innocent. Justification is more than that. It is setting us right or calling us righteous though righteousness does not exist in us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace
Even though the law had no power to condemn him to death—he was "dead" to it, as verse 19 says—Paul was still quite active! His life continued to contain a great deal of activity. When Christ was crucified, He then also became "dead to the law" in the sense that it held absolutely no power over Him. The law's power, its threat to a human being, lies in being able to condemn him to death. But once a person has died, as Paul shows in Romans 7, the law no longer has any power over him.
The phrase "I am crucified" shows that it is a continual thing, an ongoing process. Through Christ's intercession, the law's condemning power is held at bay. This is what Christ does in His role as our High Priest. But Paul then clarifies it by saying that he still is very much alive and kicking—he does not simply roll over and relegate all responsibility to God.
He then shows another facet: Once we have made the covenant with God, we have signed ourselves over to Him, and suddenly our lives are not our own anymore. We still have to go through this life, but it is Christ living His life in us that makes us alive spiritually.
Jesus Christ gave up His physical life so that, through His sacrifice, we could be brought into alignment with God; this is what is called "justification." We respond by yielding to the direction that He now gives to us. We are to have faith in Him and the entire process that He is bringing us through—not merely that we are forgiven for our sins, but also that we will be brought to the "measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). It would not be faith if we were resisting Him throughout this life by disobeying Him! It would be a contest of wills: Can God still save me even though I am rebelling? Trusting in God to bring us to a state of completion while refusing to obey Him are mutually exclusive. God simply will not allow someone into His Kingdom who will not willingly submit to living the way God requires (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 5:10; 5:19-20; 6:33; 7:21; 13:41, 47-50; Acts 28:23; Romans 14:17; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; II Thessalonians 1:5; II Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 1:8; Psalm 119:172)!
David C. Grabbe
Paul says that Christ dwelled in Him through the Holy Spirit. This indwelling of God's Spirit enables us to be faithful. Christ's faithful mind is imparted to us and becomes part of our mind. If we provided the faith to obey God, it would be self-righteous. Our righteousness must come through the faith of Jesus Christ.
Martin G. Collins
In Galatians 3:27, Paul says we "put on" Christ at our baptism. If we sink into water, it surrounds us. If we put on a coat, it surrounds us. We are in the water or in the coat. If we put on Christ, we are in Christ.
Yet, in Colossians 1:27, Paul says Christ is in us. God reiterates this truth several times in the New Testament.
» John 17:23: Christ Himself prays to His Father: "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one."
» Romans 8:10: Paul tells us, "If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin."
» Galatians 2:20: Paul speaks of himself and all true Christians: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me."
» Ephesians 3:17-18: Referring to the "inner man," Paul mentions that he prays "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."
» I John 3:24: John writes: "Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us."
Is this contradictory? Is it impossible? Can Christ be in us and we in Christ at the same time?
God's Word—His very Logos—answers those questions for us in John 14:20. He tells His disciples that, at His resurrection, they "will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." Christ is not describing an impossible situation. He is describing perfect, total unity!
To understand this type of unity, a couple of analogies will help.
1. We can say two bricks are united when they are attached one to another with mortar, but this is not the kind of unity of which Christ speaks. Bricks "united" in this way are distinguishable from each other even by a child. True, we could say they are united, but it is better to say they are connected, attached, or adjacent.
2. Christ speaks of a more thoroughgoing unity. Picture water from bucket A being poured into water in bucket B. The waters completely intermingle; one cannot distinguish water from bucket A from that of bucket B after they are mixed.
While no analogy is perfect, these two do serve to point out the sort of unity that exists between God and the true Christian. It is a thorough commingling of minds. Ideally—and none of us is there yet—it should be impossible to distinguish our mind from Christ's. They should be that much alike! Paul urges us toward the ideal: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).
When we put on the new man, we put on Christ. We are in Him and He in us. Our goal should be to nourish that new man by renewing our minds through submission to Him, until our mind and His are indistinguishable. Now, that is unity!
Choosing the New Man (Part Three)
Verse 15 declares that being born an Israelite indicates a privileged birth. The privilege results from being part of the Old Covenant nation, thus having direct contact with God's Word, which contains His promises and instructions. This provides the possibility of faith because faith comes from hearing God's Word (Romans 10:17).
However, even having that privilege is of itself no benefit regarding justification. Why? Because a person is justified only through faith in Jesus Christ. Through this means and this means only, a person is declared righteous or innocent of sin. Thus, if one does not take advantage of its availability, the availability itself is of no value. Faith in Jesus Christ and His message is what is important about this way of life.
Paul makes a definitive statement regarding obedience following justification by faith in verses 17-18. The thing that he destroyed through faith and repentance was his former way of life with its mountain of sin accumulated during his unconverted life before justification. Paul was determined not to return to that sinful way. To do this, he had to live to God (verse 19), that is, to obey God's laws so that he would not sin and therefore bring to naught his justification through Christ's sacrifice. He is clearly stating that keeping God's laws is required, even though keeping them does not earn salvation.
We need to make sure that we understand this important reality: Being justified is a major step toward salvation, but this does not mean that the person's character is now fully changed. It means only that the charges for sin against him are removed, and he is legally declared innocent on the basis of Christ's divine righteousness.
Justification is a judicial action by a judge—God. The term indicates an aligning of a forgiven person with a standard. In this case, the standard is the law of God. Justification does not happen automatically to all but solely to those whom God calls, forgives, and unites with Christ because they believe in the efficacy of His death as the divinely given Substitute to pay the death penalty for their sins. They have humbled themselves before Him and fervently desire to glorify God through a vastly changed life.
Character is a group of qualities that cannot be transferred by fiat. It is created throughout life, either by experiences in this world or by experiences within a relationship with God. We desire to be in the character image of God. In His purpose, the creating of godly character takes place during the sanctification process.
The New International Version renders Romans 10:17 as, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Paul uses "faith," one's belief, in the sense of trust. At the point of justification in a person's spiritual life, faith is not producing works; it is merely the mental activity of believing. The works come later as the sanctification process begins and continues. This faith, this trust, has its foundation in knowledge that God has supplied by enabling the called person to reach the right conclusion, a conclusion based in fact. His trust is therefore not blind; it is based, not on speculation, but truth.
In Galatians 2:18, Paul shows that being justified by faith does not lead to a life of sin. Being justified by faith indicates a commitment in the mind of the justified to go forward, building on the relationship by being established with Christ. Verse 19 begins with the word "for," indicating the reason why the justified person will not return to the old way of life. By faith, Paul understands the reason: As far as the law is concerned, he is dead. His debt to it has been satisfied.
Verse 20 continues the thought. Like Christ died, the "old man," the carnal Paul, also died and was symbolically buried in the waters of baptism. Also like Christ, he has been raised from the dead—symbolically—from the waters of baptism. This is done for the sole reason that, by means of the very faith of Christ that he has been given, he would live life as Christ lived. The life Christ lived was sinless. He did not break God's laws, and that is the objective of the new creation and salvation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace (Part Two)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Galatians 2:20:
1 John 3:24