Study 15: Gal.2:20
Not I but Christ
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
'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.