Posted by: Brad Beaman | July 10, 2008

The Gospel: Christ In You, Galatians 2:17-21

                                                       Christ in You

You may have heard someone describing their conception or rather their misconception of Christianity something like this: Christianity is taking the ten things you like to do most and stop doing them and taking the ten things you like to do least and start doing them.

How can you explain this kind of misconception of a life of faith in Christ?
It is most likely because they have received their idea of Christianity from rulebook Christians. They have come in contact with the kind of institutionalized religion similar to the legalism that Paul is writing against in Galatians.

Jesus was around the Pharisees who emphasized the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Christ came to give an abundant life (John 10:10). The fruit of the spirit is love, joy and peace. Jesus gives us wells of living water that spring from within and we should never thirst again. Where the spirit of the Lord is there is Liberty.

Paul was dead set against a legalistic Christianity. He called it not only a false gospel but no gospel at all. Not only were these legalists promoting a rulebook Christianity, but they were undermining walking by faith in Christ that Paul taught the churches.

They told the churches not to listen to the gospel that Paul preached and his doctrines of grace, faith, freedom and liberty in Christ. If you do not follow our rules they said, you will have no moral anchor. You will be adrift they warned, and you will end up in complete immorality without any moral boundaries. They were so wrong!

They claimed that Paul was leading them to a lifestyle that promoted “if it feels good do it” philosophy. But Paul is speaking nothing about moral laxity.

So what was and what is the response to the legalists? The response is to set forth what it is in really living for Christ. Actually it is Christ in you, living through you. This is a classic passage for living a life for God.

The response is found in Galatians 2:17-21. (NIV)
17″If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I 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. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Paul smashes the legalist’s philosophies. He completely refutes the idea that obedience to a code of religious law is necessary for salvation. He also blows apart the opposite position of antinomianism that they wrongly charged him of. Antinomianism says that there are no moral absolutes. He does it by focusing on what Christianity really is; Christ in you and Christ living through you!

The Christian life is letting Christ live through us. There is a children’s illustration that is used to make the point. It is the hand in the glove. We are like the glove and Christ in us is like the hand. We can do nothing eternally significant until we allow Christ to use us. Gal 2:20 is a great theological statement about Christ living in us and through us.

Paul has preached grace in his Gospel. Now some have come behind him and planted the idea in the Galatian churches that grace promotes sin. Does grace promote sin? Paul addresses this in Galatians 2:17 when he asks if Christ is the promoter of sin. Never! Paul wants to be very clear here. Christ does not promote sin. No way! Of course not! God Forbid! May it never be!

Grace does not mean that we throw morality out the window. Christianity can be distorted in either direction. The Christian path is a narrow road with big ditches on both sides. There is the legalism ditch on one side and a licentiousness ditch on the other.

The legalism ditch is stuck in a rules and regulations Christianity that seeks complete conformity. This ditch was the Galatians church problem. On the left side ditch is a disregard for morality that is an affront to the Holiness of God. It is a sin without regret that leads to disorder and chaos, like at Corinth. Christ is not behind either.

The false thinking that Paul is accused of is that if you sin you produce more undeserved favor. Paul has to clarify that he never said anything like this. Grace frees us to really live for God. Paul stated his position clearly in Romans 6:15, “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace.” By no means!

God forgave our sin and this is grace, his undeserved gift. Should we go on sinning that grace may abound? By no means, Romans 6:15 uses the same phrase as here in Galatians 2:19. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.

Christ pours out mercy and compassion, not to promote law-breaking. But that we might really live for God. Not to escape moral responsibility. Now we have the spiritual resources to live for God. Not following a rule book, but walking by faith. We are released from the law to live for God not to sin.

True Christianity transforms culture and turns the world upside down like the early church was charged of doing. We won’t make an impact in the ditch. People recognize empty legalism when they see it. Without moral boundaries lives will be destroyed. Society will only be more morally bankrupt.

But real Christianity will make a difference. Not legalism. Not promoting sin, but a born again spirit filled faith. Paul is getting the church back on track. Only true Christianity, Christ living through us will make a difference.

Galatians 2:20 is a great verse because it is Paul telling us how we live the Christian life.
This verse is worth memorizing. It will get us back on track when we get in the ditch. And this verse tells us how to stay out of the ditch.

Galatians 2:20
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.

When Paul says I’ve been crucified with Christ, I died with Christ he is talking about a past action that took place at salvation. It is the picture portrayed in baptism of not only Christ’s death, burial and resurrection but ours. We died to law. We died to self. Only the hand in the glove will accomplish anything. We are born again. There is a new birth followed by our dying to self. We have identification with Christ.

Galatians 2:20 says; Who loved me and gave himself for me. Christ died in your place. Jesus didn’t transgress the law, we did. We are sinners who deserve death. Jesus died for you. But Christ rose again. There is a new life in Christ. Christ lives in me.

In Christ your body is now a temple of God. The Spirit of Christ is in you. By faith you submit to Christ. He works through you supernaturally. Now in Christ you have spiritual life; like the hand inside the glove. It is now Christ in you the hope of glory.

Christ is the source of true life. That is straight down the Christian path. Paul never swerved into the ditch. He had to help the churches that did. In Vs 21 Paul says; if we could attain good works ourselves then Christ did not need to die. It is only by grace. Our righteousness comes when Christ death counted for me.

Now we have a relationship with God. Now we sense the heart of God. Now in Christ sin grieves us because it grieves God. Now in Christ we have the spiritual resources to live for God. In Christ it is not about following rules. It is Christ living in us and through us. It is about walking by faith. It is to really live.

Maybe the Christianity you have known is in the ditch. But you don’t have to. You can live by faith in the son of God. Christ has poured out mercy and compassion, not to promote lawbreakers, but so that we might really live for God. It is not to escape moral responsibility, but Christ living through us. It is to really live for God.

Here is the strange invitation in Christ. It is an invitation to die to self. We let Christ live in us and through us. We die to law, to good works, to selfish ambition, to pride. The rich young ruler walked away from this kind of invitation. Will you?



  1. Hey Brad,
    I enjoyed your site. This is our focus; Christ in you the hope of glory. i am delighted to see others who are teaching this great truth. Have you heard of Peter Wade, or Steve Pettit or Jim Fowler? Where are you located? We are in Maryland. Peter Wade is in Austriala, Steve Pettit is in Florida, and Jim Fowler is in Califorina.

  2. Brad,
    Nice article. I agree personally that the “spirit” of the law should take precedence over the “letter” of the law. Jesus demonstrated that again and again with the high priests and pharisees. However, laws are important in all segments of society and religion is no different. We have rules of the road, rules for our children as they grow up in our care, house rules, every company and position has rules/guidelines for what is expected of them and so on.

    I may be wrong, but it almost seems like you are pushing away any idea of rules or legalism. They are an important facet but should certainly not hinder the way in which one brings themselves closer to God. As a Catholic, I realize there are many rules and over the centuries there have certainly been times where such regulations impeded the faith of the followers to the larger reality of loving God and allowing him to love.

    I’d like to think that we have learned from those times. I believe any rules/regulations are necessary but certainly need to be balanced with regards to allowing the Spirit to move and breathe with us and among us.

    The love of Christ supercedes all and that is something that must never be forgotten. On a sailboat I liken the rudder to rules/regulations/law that guide us but it is the sail (Christ) that will have the power to move us and get us to our final destination.

  3. “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13. FYI A law has been added by Jesus’ crucifixion. Your salvation is predicated upon hearing what this law requires as obedience and the the faith to use it for your benefit.

    • Hi Theodre,

      One verse I would like to share with you is Ephesians 2:8-9

      8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.

      We are saved by grace through faith. There is no amount of good works or obeying the law that will save us. That is why Jesus had to die the just for the unjust to bring us to God

      1 Peter 3:18
      18For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,

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