Galatians 


Study 15:  Gal.2:20

Not I but Christ





  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 

Gal. 2:20


This verse, like many others, has been used to produce hymns or choruses for God's people to sing; but when scripture was penned, it was not done so that we could sing pleasing tunes to the words, nor   to put them in a frame and hang  it on our walls. When Paul wrote the words above he was  writing what he was living. And whilst singing these truths may be a blessing, living them out must be our first priority, lest we are found singing  a lie. This verse is, for me, the key verse to the epistle of Galatians. It sums up the teaching of all  six chapters well.

We started  off by saying that the first two chapters give us some history of Paul's life that is an  example of what he teaches in the letter. We have seen, for example:

1. In Salvation

It was  ' not I but Christ'  in the matter of salvation  Gal.1:15-16.  Before  he was saved Paul, being a Pharisee was seeking to establish his own righteousness  by the law. That is, he was trying to find acceptance before God by doing what was right according to the Mosaic law.  Yet by his own testimony he discovered it only  showed the sin in his life. Rom. 7:7-11, and he died.  No matter how hard he tried to keep the law he  found he was  at war within himself; he could  not do that which he knew was the right thing to do. The law, instead of bringing life brought death. He discovered, in his own words:

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

I Cor. 15:56


He was also very zealous for his cause in Judaism  persecuting those who were of the Spirit,  another characteristic of legalism: for he saw the Christians as blasphemers and sought to arrest and kill them; he even gave consent to the stoning of the first martyr Stephen. Acts 7:58; 26:9-11. Quite clearly Paul's righteousness after the law  only brought death, to Paul in his spirit and in body to Christ's members.

Then God got hold of Paul: on the way to Damascus Jesus appeared to him.  Paul  was told what to do, and God sent a man to him to tell what to do and he was born again. Acts 9:1-19. It was God however who took the  initiative and it was He who brought Paul into new birth. No work of the flesh at all. Paul then learnt that true righteousness is in Christ  and not in himself or the law.

That no flesh should glory in his presence.  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

I Cor. 1:29-30

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.  For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.  But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)  Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)  But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Rom. 10:1-11

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
II Cor. 5:21


We are made the righteousness of God in Christ.  That is  we become in Christ all that God wants and expects us to be, all that we could never be by ourselves. Hence the folly of trying to become righteous by legalistic / flesh religion. By being found in Christ by new birth we learn that  being what God want us to be is by life and not law.

2. In Apostleship

It was 'not I but Christ'  in the matter of apostleship Gal.1:1 Paul was a Pharisee by his own learning and efforts; he was taught under the feet of the great Gamaliel; by his own confession  Paul said he, of all people,  could boast more than  anyone else.  He worked his way up to being one of the top Pharisees of the day.  He was the son of a Pharisee  he had every right in the flesh to boast.

Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people,......
Acts 5:34

 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
Acts 22:3

But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
Acts 23:6


The Pharisees was the strictest of the Jewish sects around at the time. The name Pharisee has two possible meanings: separated ones,  or specifier, Either meaning implying that only they had the correct interpretation of God's law. They seemed to have  been born out of the struggles of the Maccabean period  in reaction to the Hellenising tendencies of the Jews.  And this is very revealing of legalists: seeing themselves as the  only one holding the truth of God, making themselves something special and apart from all others; usually beginning in reaction to something.

But when God got hold of Paul He made him an apostle, it wasn't Paul's doing or working or choice it was God's alone. It was 'not I but Christ'  and instead of boasting  in his  self pride, Paul from new birth onwards led  a life of humility and  abasement. Weak in the flesh Paul was strong in God fulfilling  his calling in the Spirit.


For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

I Cor. 4:9

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

I Cor. 15:9

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
II Tim. 1:1

Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.  For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.0  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

II Cor 12:5-10

3. In being crucified with Christ

It was 'not I but Christ ' in the matter of being crucified, that is becoming dead to the past life. We saw in the previous study that  on new birth that  we are baptised into Christ's death. The old man is crucified, and also we  become dead to the law by the body of Christ. But that's not all. In Galatians there are three crucifixions mentioned: the  one here 'I am crucified'; the crucifying of the flesh in  Gal. 5:25 and that of the world in  Gal. 6:14. All these are different aspects of the applied finished work in a child of God, which we shall consider as we progress through this letter. But the important thing is that is is an act of God, by baptising us into His death we are [Co]-crucified with Christ.  No one ever crucified himself! Someone else had to do it. In our case God put us into His Son and there applied the work of the cross to us. It is indeed not  I but Christ

The words " I am crucified with Christ.."   also implies  an act done in the past but is still continuing. Paul is talking here  of, not the old sinful man -  for that was once and for all,( Rom 6 deals with that)  but, the old me; the one  trying to find favour with God through my own efforts, through the keeping of the law. Even after new birth we must understand that we can so easily,  walk off in the flesh to try and seek our own righteousness,  and fall  from grace.

He was cut off from the past the old way of  life  and it had  no hold on him. Consider the events in this second chapter once more: Judaisers came to insist on the keeping of the Law of Moses, at one time Paul would have  been the first to insist on the law being imposed, yet now even when Peter tries it on, Paul is so dead to those things he can stand up and rebuke even Peter himself, and openly teach that we should not have anything to do with the  works of the law! He truly had been crucified with Christ and was not going back from that God had  shown him.

4. In the life he now  lives

It was 'not I but Christ ' in the matter of living the Christian life.  "Christ liveth in me ". That is  Christ was the source of his life. Paul was, to change the picture, a branch in the  vine and was utterly dependent on Christ , through the Spirit , to live the life that God wanted of him here on the earth. Not from a list of rules and regulations, or by the works of the flesh, but  by the life that was from above. All his springs were truly  in Him from above and it was lived by the faith of the one who was crucified.

We have read previously from Rom. 8 that if we do not have the Spirit of Christ then we are none of His. But being born anew means that we have His Spirit and are His; we are then  to live by the faith of the Son of God, it being  God's purpose to conform us into the image of Jesus, for as His Life  is lived out in us we become  more like  Him.

 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God...............................................

.........................................And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.


Rom. 8:8-14; 28-30





5. Summary

These first two chapters then set the scene: they  show us  in practice the difference between living by the Spirit and that by the flesh. After this personal testimony Paul now turns to the Galatians and their condition, and an exposition of the themes already hinted at in theses opening chapters.





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