“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..”
– Galatians 2:20 –
Commentary by Enduring Word
I have been crucified with Christ: Again, Paul anticipated a question from those who disagree with him. “Paul, when did you die to the law? You look alive to me!” Paul was happy to answer, “I have been crucified with Christ. I died to the law when Jesus died on the cross. He died in my place on the cross, so it is like it was me up on the cross. He died, and I died to the law when He died.”
It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me: Since we died with Christ on the cross we have a different life. Our old life lived under the law is dead. Now we are alive to Jesus Christ and Jesus is alive in us (but Christ lives in me).
Paul realized that on the cross, a great exchange occurred. He gave Jesus his old, try-to-be-right-before-God-by-the-law life, and it was crucified on the cross. Then Jesus gave Paul His life – Christ came to live in him. So Paul’s life wasn’t his own anymore, it belonged to Jesus Christ! Paul didn’t own his own life (that life died); he simply managed the new life Jesus gave him.
And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith: Paul can only manage the new life Jesus gave him by faith. You can’t live the new life Jesus gives on the foundation of law-keeping. You can only live it by faith.
When Paul said I now live in the flesh, he didn’t mean that he lived a chronically sinful life. “By the term ‘flesh’ Paul does not understand manifest vices. Such sins he usually calls by their proper names, as adultery, fornication, etc. By ‘flesh’ Paul understands what Jesus meant in the third chapter of John, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh’. (John 3:6) ‘Flesh’ here means the whole nature of man, inclusive of reason and instincts. ‘This flesh,’ says Paul, ‘is not justified by the works of the law.’ ” (Luther)
The focus of this verse isn’t the flesh, it is faith. “Faith is not simply a topic about which Paul preached from time to time. Nor is it a virtue which he practiced occasionally. It is central in all that he does.” (Morris)
“Faith connects you so intimately with Christ, that He and you become as it were one person. As such you may boldly say: ‘I am now one with Christ. Therefore Christ’s righteousness, victory, and life are mine.’ On the other hand, Christ may say: ‘I am that big sinner. His sins and death are mine, because he is joined to me, and I to him.’ ” (Luther)
In the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me: The faith Paul lived by was not faith in himself, faith in the law, or faith in what he could earn or deserve before God. It was faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ – who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Before, Paul’s relationship with God was founded on what he could do for God – his faith was in himself. Now the foundation was what Jesus Christ had done for him – his faith was in Jesus. And Paul found a marvelous person to put his faith in! It was a person who loved him. It was a person who demonstrated that love when He gave Himself for Paul.
Who loved me: Paul can confidently give himself to Jesus because of the love Jesus has demonstrated in the past. “It is true that he loves us now, but Paul also wrote truly, ‘Who loved me.’ The verb is in the past tense. Jesus loved me upon the cross; loved me in the manger of Bethlehem; loved me before ever the earth was. There never was a time when Jesus did not love his people.” (Spurgeon)
Loved . . . gave Himself: The past tense is important. William Newell, in his commentary on Romans, speaks to the importance of the past tense in the word loved. “It is this past tense gospel the devil hates . . . Let a preacher be continually saying, ‘God loves you, Christ loves you,’ and he and his congregation will by and by be losing sight of both their sinner hood and of the substitutionary atonement of the cross, where the love of God and of Christ was once for all and supremely set forth.”
“Did the Law ever love me? Did the Law ever sacrifice itself for me? Did the Law ever die for me? On the contrary, it accuses me, it frightens me, it drives me crazy. Somebody else saved me from the Law, from sin and death unto eternal life. That Somebody is the Son of God, to whom be praise and glory forever.” (Luther)
Gave Himself for me: “For me is very emphatic. It is not enough to regard Christ as having died for the salvation of the world; each man must claim the effect and possession of this grace for himself personally.” (Calvin)
“Take these blessed words of the apostle, and put them in your mouth, and let them lie there as wafers made with honey, till they melt into your very soul: ‘Who loved me, and gave himself for me.’ ” (Spurgeon)