Galatians 2:20 (3rd Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
June 13, 2010
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is from the Epistle Lesson, Galatians 2:20:
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.
In his 1535 Lectures on Galatians Martin Luther wrote, “But faith must be taught correctly, namely, that by it you are so cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person, which cannot be separated but remains attached to Him forever and declares: ‘I am as Christ.’” Is that how you see yourself as a Christian, cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person? Today God’s Word empowers our faith to rediscover that we have been crucified with Christ so that it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us.
Let me ask this question. How close do you want to be with God? By close I don’t mean in proximity or location, but close in your relationship with Him. How intimate do you want to be with God? How well do you want to know Him and have Him know you? How deep do you want your relationship with God to be?
I guess the answer really depends on what our standing is before God. God is the Triune God who made heaven and earth simply by the power of His Word. God is holy, without sin and hating sin. God is just and always does what is right. God is merciful and gracious. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, present everywhere. He is the God who gave His Law, the Ten Commandments, to Moses on Mt. Sinai. He is the God who said to Israel, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and be keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, . . . But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.” (Deut. 30:15-18) He is the God who spoke these words at the Sermon on the Mount, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) So what is your standing before God according to His Law?
Our standing before God on the basis of His Law is guilty. Our standing before God according to His Law is sinful and unclean. Our standing before God based on keeping the Law is condemned. You and I cannot be declared “not guilty” before God by works of the Law because we have not done these works as God demands that they be done—perfectly, without any error or miss-step. As we heard in our reading from Galatians 3, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ . . . ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’” But we don’t “do them.” We are driven by our own spirit and we follow our lusts. God’s Word tells us plainly in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
The Law cannot save us. Our imperfect following of the Law, our imperfect completing of the works of the Law, cannot save us. It only serves to show us how far we have missed the mark, how far short we have fallen from the glory of God. Since the Fall into sin, the chief purpose of the Law is to convict us of our sinfulness and of our many offenses against the holy will of God, of the guilt incurred by sin, and the righteous wrath of God. The Law serves to break down in us that self-sufficiency, that self-righteousness, that pride before God which boasts and trusts in our own merits. The Law serves to humble us before God and fill our hearts with terror and dismay that the Law carries with it the threat of punishment for all who don’t keep it—the wrath and displeasure of God, earthly punishment and eternal damnation. Realizing our lost condition and standing before God, the Law drives us to our knees in true sorrow over our sinfulness and in fear of condemnation.
How close, then, do you want to be to this holy God given your sinful, condemned standing before Him? How well do you want to know Him and have Him know you at this point? How deep do you want your relationship with God to be who sits in judgment against you and your sins? Not very, I would say. Our sins and the curse of the Law drives us away from God because we fear His anger over our sinfulness. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we try to hide ourselves from God so that He does not see us naked and exposed before Him, so that He does not see all of our guilt and shame.
Yet God insisted on coming among us. He insisted on taking on human flesh and becoming one of us in order to redeem and save us from the curse of the Law. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” Jesus Christ died on the tree of the cross taking God’s wrath and punishment for our sins and failures to keep the Law perfectly. Jesus suffered our hell and died our death in our place so that we might live and not die eternally. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross in our place God declares you and me “not guilty” of sin. That’s what it means to be justified. Since Jesus died for us and won our complete forgiveness, it’s “just as if I’d” never sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.
By faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us, we now live eternally with sins forgiven. Because we have received the Holy Spirit who have given us the gift of saving faith in Jesus we are now “so cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person, which cannot be separated but remains attached to Him forever and declares: ‘I am as Christ.’” By faith we have been crucified with Christ. Our Baptismal faith so intimately unites us with Jesus’ death and resurrection that we ourselves have not only died to sin and the curse of the Law, but also to ourselves, our own egos. By faith in Christ, both the Law and it’s curse and our egos have ceased to be controlling factors for the direction of our life in Christ. The focus of our attention is now on the fact that “Christ lives in me.”
Having been crucified with Christ, having died to sin and been raised to newness of life, we stand before God holy and righteous, covered in the holiness and righteousness of Jesus Christ. By faith in Jesus, we are now so intimately connected to Him that we can say right along with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Christ the Life lives in Paul. By faith Christ fills Paul’s heart, soul, and being. That means, first of all, Christ as Paul’s righteousness. Jesus’ punishment on the cross became Paul’s own when he was crucified with Christ, and Jesus’ punishment on the cross gave Paul God’s verdict of acquittal. Secondly, Christ lives in Paul so that his mind and will now responds to Christ in thought, word, and deed.
The same is true for you and me. Christ the Life lives in us. By faith in Christ, I can say, “I am not living as Michael, for Michael is dead.” Who, then, is living? “The Christian.” Living in myself, I am utterly dead through the Law but living in Christ, or rather with Christ living in me. In you and me, Christians, Christ is speaking and acting in us. Christ rules in us with His Holy Spirit, who now sees, hears, speaks, works, and does simply everything in us, even though our sinful flesh is still reluctant. This Christian life, then, is not the life of the flesh, although it is a life in the flesh; but it is the life of Christ, the Son of God, “who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Therefore read these words “me” and “for me” with great emphasis, and accustom yourself to accepting this “me” with a sure faith and applying it to yourself. Do not doubt that you belong to the number of those who speak this “me.” Christ did not love only Paul and give Himself for him, but the same grace belongs and comes to us as to them; therefore we are included in this “me.” Christ died to make sinners into the friends and sons of God, and heirs of all heavenly gifts.
That’s how close your God is to you. He who loved you and gave Himself up for you into death on the cross lives in you. The life you now live you live by faith in this very Son of God, Jesus Christ. You have died to the Law so that you might live to God. You have been crucified with Christ and so now live in Him and for Him even as He lives in you through His Holy Spirit. Christ comes to you by grace through faith and dwells in you with His love and grace, mercy and forgiveness, empowering your every thought, word, and deed to be captive to His Word of life and love and faith. Amen.
Luther, M. (1999, c1963). Vol. 26: Luther’s works, vol. 26 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (26:168). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Luther, M. (1999, c1963). Vol. 26: Luther’s works, vol. 26 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (26:179). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.