Galatians chapter 1 ended with Paul giving some biographical information with the purpose of demonstrating that the gospel he proclaimed was not something he had received from humans and he didn’t make it up himself.
He is addressing in this letter a very serious error that had threatened to take root in the churches in the region of Turkey then called Galatia.
The error was the belief that non-Jews needed to undergo the Jewish ritual law of circumcism in order to be saved…to become followers of Christ.
If they bought into this, then they would be leaving the freedom of Christ and retreating back into the slavery of the law.
Paul picks up in 2:1 with a key event that had happened in the past that spoke to their present situation.
Let me summarize Galatians 2:1-10…by giving a very brief backstory
The book of Acts follows the prophetic outline given in 1:8,9…the gospel is spreading in Jerusalem, then the Christians are scattered by persecution out from there.
Paul, is part of that persecution until Christ encounters him and he is transformed…then he becomes a key figure in the spread of the gospel.
As the gospel spreads out geographically it also breaks out demographically…non-Jews are coming to Christ in large numbers.
At one point, Peter, the key leader in the early church has a vision where God communicates to him very clearly that he has accepted non-Jews as his people…just as they are…when they put their faith in him.
The evidence of this in real life was that the Holy Spirit had indwelt some of them…so God had indeed accepted them.
This was surprising to the leaders…but they rolled with it (at least some did)
“When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised god, saying ‘So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” Acts 11:18
It’s important to understand, this issue will look it’s been “solved” several times…but then it will come back again and again…like a theological Zombie…they just couldn’t kill this idea that…
You need to do more than believe and receive the gospel in order to become part of God’s family.
Fast forward, Paul is now leading the effort to take the gospel to non-Jews, Peter is more focused on the mission to Jewish people.
Paul and his buddy Barnabas are in Antioch, a town in Syria about 400 miles north of Jerusalem.
The word of the growth of the church had made its way back to Jerusalem and some folks showed up in Antioch confusing the new believers with talk of how God would not save them unless they were circumcised according to Jewish law.
*I’ve heard of and even seen personally(stateside and overseas)…how when God starts drawing people to himself…it won’t be long before false teachers will show up with a different version of the gospel.
New believers are low hanging fruit for false teachers.
Paul, Barnabas, and these so called “Judaizers” headed to Jerusalem, from Antioch, to present their case to the church leaders there.
Paul makes it clear that he has not been “summoned” by them…he went on his own accord to make his case.
And, he makes his case well enough (because it was true, not just because he was so convincing) that the leaders in Jerusalem agree with him…
Non-Jews should not be forced to be circumcised…both Jew and Gentile alike are accepted by God by faith.
Understand, God is working through the early church in all of this to comprehend what he had done in the coming of Christ…they were still making sense out of it all.
We see this process in the book of Acts… “Oh, that’s what going on…okay, good…and no, that is bad…that’s not what God is up to.
That’s the backstory…let’s read…
2 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.
4 This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
*They are like enemy infiltrators…spies.
In verses 6-10 he says that the leaders concurred with his position, even though he didn’t need their approval, he already God’s approval.
Paul is giving this background to the churches in Galatia to say “We have been through this before, and we have already settled it…it may sound new and cutting edge…but it’s old and enslaving.”
Over and over someone will “discover” new “truth” about the gospel, the life of Christ, the Bible…write a book, start a church, a podcast.
It is interesting how often this happens and even more interesting that it’s never really new.
I’m not talking about some new archeological/historical find that helps make more sense out of the Scripture, particulary that helps cut the historical/cultural gap between when it was written and now.
For instance some years back they dug up some Canaanite writings that indicated that part of their pagan worship (in addition to child sacrifice) involved a ritual where a goat was boiled in its mother’s milk.
This helped make sense out of the fact that the only OT law repeated three times is the one that says “Don’t cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
This seemed strange to us…but oh well
Turns out the real principle had been lost to history for a time…this law is not culinary in nature but about not joining into Canaanite’s cruel worship…the true God was different and worship of him was different.
What I’m talking specifically about is some idea that someone suddenly thinks no one has ever thought of before…Jesus is actually this, the church is actually that.
This summer I read “Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity” by Mark Noll and I was amused to see how old…new ideas are.
Ecclesiastes says “There is nothing new under the sun”…so true.
Don’t let someone with some new idea about God, the gospel, ultimate reality…take your breath or your faith away.
Relax…it’s not new.
Paul is telling the Galatians… “Hey this may sound true to you, but it’s not in any way new or true…and it is not going forward it is going backwards into slavery.”
In the next few verses, he recounts what would have been for Paul…a very difficult time in his life…one of many difficult times…but this was different than physical suffering…it was relational suffering.
He had to confront Peter, a cherished and respected leader in the church…and deal with the heartache of the fact…that even his battle buddy Barnabas was, for a time, lead astray.
Let’s walk through this
11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. (STOOD CONDENMED) 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.
So, Peter came to Antioch, where Christians were first called Christians…and many were coming to Christ.
At first, he ate with Gentiles.
But then when “certain men came from James” he suddenly stopped the practice.
James was the brother of Jesus who had become one of the key leaders in the church at Jerusalem.
In Acts 15:24 we find this out about these guys who claimed to be from James.
“We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.”
So, it turns out that these guys showed up saying “James, you know, JESUS brother…he sent us.”
No, he didn’t!
At any rate Peter, the one Jesus called the “Rock” was influenced and he stopped eating with the Gentiles because he was afraid of these who were proclaiming “Christ+circumcision=a place in God’s family.
This was serious stuff.
Peter doesn’t strike me, post resurrection, as a guy who was afraid of what people thought.
But we can take heart in the fact, that Peter…even after all he had experienced, he lived with Jesus, saw and took part in miracles…was still just a man…he could get it wrong.
And but maybe he wasn’t just trying to fit into the cool guy club…maybe he thought “What if they are right and I’m wrong about this?”…started second guessing himself.
Maybe they said “Peter, you are really hurting the witness to the Jewish people by what you are doing?”
“Man, I don’t want to do that.”
And maybe his withdrawal was a kneejerk reaction but it did enormous damage.
At any rate…it probably wouldn’t have been so bad if he had shown up in Antioch and got the Gentile believers together, maybe Paul and Barnabas and said…
“Hey guys huddle up… you know you are good to go right?…Jesus accepts you as you are…but, look, in order to not be an unnecessary offense to the Jewish people I am trying to reach, I’m not going to join you guys at dinner for awhile…you okay with that?”
“Of course, do what you gotta to do…we will all be eating together soon!”
But what happened is that he did…then he didn’t eat with them…and what it communicated was all bad.
It caused a lot of confusion…so much so that Paul wrote…clearly in pain.
13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
He says Peter was being a hypocrite (literally “play acting” or “putting on a show”)
And it was such a good show that EVEN Barnabas was led astray.
What follows is a recounting of some of what Paul said to Peter.
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
Peter’s hypocrisy was obvious…everyone new that Peter had been living like a Gentile…probably in terms of the complicated systems of Jewish food laws.
He had been enjoying the freedom to eat, say a Cheeseburger…meat and cheese together were a Kosher “no-no”…this was application of the law drawn from the whole “goat and mother’s milk” thing.
Now, he is flip flopping and forcing Gentiles to do what he himself hadn’t been doing…keep the law.
I’m confident that if Peter was asked outright “Do you really believe that these Gentile Christians are inferior to Jewish Christians…that they lack something essential?”
He would have denied it…I just think he wasn’t understanding the larger implications of his actions…but Paul did.
An encounter like this, today, would most often lead to this:
Peter to Paul… “you are dead to me, stay away from me…who do you think you are…do you know who I am?”
Paul to Peter… “You are an idiot, that’s who you are…no problem…see you again never.”
Then they would have launched a series of podcasts condemning one another.
“Why Peter (The Rock) is now Peter ‘the Sand’”
“Why Paul is a jerk…he is successful church planter…but he lacks character”
What actually happened is they worked it out…and remained partners in the gospel.
There is going to be disagreement…we can get things wrong.
But if someone gets something wrong today…they are permanently disregarded and they are to be personally attacked.
I’m not talking about people who commit crimes, abuse people, are ethical…they should receive consequences.
I’m talking about people who get things wrong…for a time.
But then, they are not allowed to change.
Who can live this way?
No one can.
15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Paul he is speaking tongue in cheek here.
He says…even those of us who are Jewish background and not these (air quotes) “sinful Gentiles”…we know that salvation is by faith not by works of the law.
It’s crazy for us to say to them… “Hey, you need to do what didn’t work for us in order to be saved.”
The next three verses (17-19) are a bit difficult to follow…I’ll paraphrase with some help from NT scholar, Alan Cole:
“If at the very moment we say that we ourselves are justified by faith alone, we then tell others that “faith alone” is not enough and they need to keep the law…does that mean that trusting Christ is leading them into sin because it is teaching them to not trust and obey the law.”
Do they need to keep the law or is faith enough?
You are talking out of both sides of your mouth…no wonder they are confused and disturbed.
We will talk in a couple of weeks about the place of the law in the life of the Christian…because this topic is no less confusing now that it was then…maybe in some ways, more so.
The next verse is one of the most famous in all of Paul’s writings.
This is where we will land and move to our key application.
20 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.
Every human death is, of course, a break with this life.
I officiated a funeral service yesterday and I will do another one tomorrow.
Those two lives…in regards to this life…are over.
Both are believers (are, not were) and so their lives are not over…but in regards to this life, the kind of physical life you and I are experiencing right now…that life is over.
What does it mean for us, as Christians…to live this kind of “break” with this life while we still live this life?
When I was a fairly new believer I read a book that focused on this verse and several others like it.
In retrospect, it wasn’t an entirely balanced look at Scripture in its overall context.
I was seeking a sort of “mystical/spiritual” experience…or series of experiences…to microwave my faith…speed things up.
My hope was, that I would, through maybe a singular experience …live fully, freely, powerfully this kind of “crucified life” clear sailing from now on.
I hoped I could have an experience, gain a key insight…that would fix me…I could become like Jesus in an instant.
Justification was immediate…I knew that. Transfer trust to Jesus.
I wanted transformation, or Sanctification (which is a lifetime process) to hurry up and happen to me.
I was young and I was passionate…and I wanted to live more fully in what Christ had done for me.
Now, I am old, I would argue…still passionate…and I still want to live more fully in what Christ has done for me.
But what I know to be true…is that singular experiences do not “fix us”
I’ve had a few meaningful spiritual experiences.
But these singular moments are only important in terms of whether or not they are tied together into larger movements.
I wanted, and who wouldn’t, a shortcut, an elevator, a microwave, spiritual steroids…I wanted immediate experience…
I wasn’t as excited then, about a long walk in a single direction…continually “getting back on the cross and living the crucified with Christ life”
This verse, uses a verb tense that indicates a past action with ongoing results.
Paul has, in fact, at conversion… “been crucified with Christ”…and the life he continues to live in the “flesh” (his physical body) he lives by faith in Christ who loved him and gave himself for him.
This past fact (or facts)…both the death of Christ in space and time…and Paul’s entering into that death at his conversion…have ongoing impact in his life.
This impact is “spiritual”…that is, there is the actual power of God at work in his life.
But it is also the result of a change in how he looks at everything…a re-orientation of thought…leading to how he lives his life day to day.
Paul died, at his conversion…to a life of trusting himself…his ability to keep laws, his energy, his devotion…and he now lives in his everyday life as “Christ would live were he in Paul’s body and life setting.”
I call it “single story living”…what does it mean to live as Christ in me…right here…everywhere I am, whatever I am doing?
I have been crucified with Christ at conversion…I am now dead to the life where I am Lord, boss of me.
The life I continue to live in this physical body…I live by faith in Jesus.
I keep on trusting him, making him boss…getting off his seat on the command post.
I keep on repenting of being petty and easily offended and making sure people
“…Know who I am…how dare they treat me…a servant of Christ…like some kind of servant or something.”
I looked for a singular experience that would “fix me”…I didn’t like the idea of a lifetime of sanctification…becoming like Christ over time.
But that is what this verse is about…a lifetime of living out what Christ has done on the cross and what he began in me at my own conversion…when I placed my faith in him.
Lonnie Frisbee died of AIDS at 43 in 1993…the result of decades of living a sexually promiscuous life.
At age 18, he joined thousands of people in San Francisco in what was called the summer of love…1967.
He would often read the Bible while using LSD…I imagine he had some interesting insights.
He eventually decided to follow Christ and because of his gifting and natural charisma…he was quickly promoted to leadership in his local church and soon to national Christian leadership.
His charisma, fame, and opportunity…far outstripped his character and maturity…a recipe for disaster.
One of my mentors told me many years ago… “Shooting stars in their 20s and 30s are falling stars in their 40s and 50s.”
Lonnie would often speak of miracles, and supernatural experiences to a “Bible Study” that soon attracted thousands each week.
He focused on seeking “experiences” rather than a focus Christlike character…he taught that signs and wonders…not long-term faithfulness was the goal, the ambition, the target of the Christ-follower.
It turns out that he was living a completely immoral life on Saturday night (drugs, random sex) …then he would go preach of gospel signs and wonders on Sunday mornings.
His life is tragic…I am not condemning him, that is not my role…I do condemn the perspective, the mentality that signs, miracles, experiences…are the priority rather than the character of Christ.
This verse, Gal. 2:20, is not about some mystical experience…it is a settled fact…if you are a Christian you have been crucified with Christ…you died to the old life, to live to the new.
That ought to lead to a settled life.
Settled not as in mundane…but as in a settled direction…living now, in the midst of all that pulls and tugs on us…as dead to things that are passing and alive to the things that last.
As a younger man I watched, with some interest and confusion…some of the older men would were leaders in our church come and go.
They would rise up and become prominent…then either go to another church, or some would leave the church altogether…a few would even become morally bankrupt and broken.
Now, there were a solid core of men and women…who stayed the course, faithful over the years…but these others were a puzzle to me.
It’s not the fact that they were changing churches, there are valid reasons for that…it was what I discovered was driving some of them to live with discontentment.
They were taught to look for the next experience that would “fix” them.
-Maybe it was a conference, a revival, a new truth or trend, a building program, a mission trip, or a spiritual experience of some kind
-Of course, eventually they would come to distrust all this…not because it wasn’t useful but because none of this worked as advertised…
they still struggled with temptations, addictions, relational problems, with believing and living faithfully…not to mention…they did the “right things” for Jesus and they still had boring jobs, or boring spouses (or they where a boring spouse) sick kids, dying parents, etc.
Life was still life…
Come on, if Peter had been there through the entire thing…Jesus ministry years, the cross, the empty tomb, Pentecost…and he still got off track…we ought to expect that this life of faith is going to be hard.
For some reason…they missed that fact…and were dismayed and either quit or went looking for an external solution to an internal problem.
-If you have some great experience…put it in your backpack and keep walking, don’t become an experience addict
-If you are blessed by a conference, concert, revival, mission trip, book…great…it is one single moment in a larger movement…keep moving.
*It’s not THE KEY…it’s just one helpful thing on this long walk.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me…the life I live in this body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
Think a lot about this verse…but don’t overthink it.
What I mean is don’t think it is impractical…or merely theological poetry.
What does it mean when you are mad at someone that you have been crucified with Christ and you no longer live but Christ lives in you?
What does it mean when you want to do something that is clearly wrong…that you live in your body by faith in the one who gave his life for you?
What does it mean to live by faith in the Son who gave himself for you when you believe that doing what God wants can’t possibly work or satisfy…not here, not now.
This is not about “trying to feel crucified” or have some “experience” …it is about “training to live the crucified life.”
Conversion makes training for transformation a possibility…the power is there to train.
But you must train to experience real life transformation.
One bit of training advice, as a example:…memorize this verse, think a lot about it, apply it practically to your everyday life.