Thursday, March 25, 2010

No Longer Me, But Him!

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

~Galatians 2:20 (NIV).

This is a big call—or seems like it. The apostle Paul advocated this as part of his hostile counsel with the apostle Peter; he certainly seemed to live it—give or take. But, what about us?

Wait up; not so soon do we take this leap. We might love the ring of this verse, but context helps.

According to Longenecker, we’re often swept up enthusiastically in responses to attacks on legalism in Galatians, but Paul is just as fervently for nomism—a “response of faith to a God who has acted on one’s behalf by living a life governed by Torah.”[1] Of course, Paul is exhorting one step further—that we’re free entirely of ‘the Law’; free to love beyond the Law—the Law not limiting, condemning or constraining us.

And without getting into an extended theological discussion, we should know Paul’s purpose: placing a caricature of Grace before the Galatians, so they might see that Jesus had smashed the Old Way, ushering in the fabulous New Covenant. The reality: a world of “met” Old Testament prophesy—the much-promised and much-cherished Messiah is Jesus.

And nomism seems pretty close to what we’re about, actually. We can’t add a thing to this “thing” that God has done for us in Christ, but we can trust and obey—faith! We do have much moral “code” to live by—the Spirit marshals this into our psyches. And we’re glad.

What does all this mean from a practical, living viewpoint?

It helps us to know, indeed it is an enormous comfort, that the grace of God travels with us—in our faith—and somehow softens the hardness of our humanity, making it easier to trust and walk humbly. I’m constantly reminded as I begin to overstep the mark in life; these are opportunities to amend my ungodly actions before they take place. And this is possible where I’m intent on God. Unfortunately, I often let ‘the side’ down too.

When we do overstep, it is this grace that works in us—never condemning—but positively compelling us to actually make amends; to repent. And we’re glad because finally truth and justice is working within our lives. It’s the way we always felt we should live, but prior to salvation we just didn’t know how. And this is why grace is beyond knowledge—God’s grace is perfectly inexplicable! These are everyday miracles of grace we’re an eye-witness to.

A genuine spiritual alignment with the cross of Christ always sets us apart, forever more. The cross does something in us, at a deep visceral level, touching us at our very spirits—for the Holy Spirit has taken up active residence; all to the glory of God.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Richard N. Longedecker, Galatians – Word Biblical Commentary (Vol. 45) (Dallas, Texas: Word, Inc., 2002), S. 95.

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