Galatians 2:19-20 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 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.”
The law, even God’s law, can’t give us the power to live for God. It can’t give us the power to stop sinning. It doesn’t give or build faith. Instead of leading us to trust God, it makes us fear his punishment. It makes us realize that we are powerless to do what God wants on our own. The better we know the law, the more we know we can’t keep it.
That’s why using God’s law to stop committing sin is an exercise in frustration if we don’t have something else. Sometimes people feel you can use it like I use my daily planner. Every day I make a list of the things I hope to accomplish. I check them off as I do them. When they are all checked off, I know I have accomplished my goal.
You can’t do the same thing with the law of God. God requires more than the external acts. You can’t check off the items in the ten commandments and feel that you have really kept them. When you know them well, you know they are just as concerned about your attitudes and motivations as they are about the acts themselves. The more I know the commandments, the more ways I can see that I am not keeping them. My check list never gets shorter. It only grows. The law keeps accusing me of failure. It shows me what to do, but it can’t give me the power to do it.
That is why Paul can say “through the law I died to the law.” God is accomplishing something with the law, but it isn’t giving me faith. It isn’t giving me life. It isn’t giving me power to stop sinning. He is showing me I can’t do it myself. He is showing me how much I need him–not only for grace and forgiveness, but also for strength to stop sinning. Only when I have died to the law can I live for God.
So justification by faith–God taking our sins, forgiving them, and declaring us perfect—has as much to offer for day to day living as it does for dealing with our past. Paul continues, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” I have been crucified with Christ. Jesus death on the cross is my death. My sins are gone. But he doesn’t leave me hanging there. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. When Jesus takes away my sins, he also gives me something wonderful. He puts to death my old, sinful self. He comes and lives in my heart and lives his life through mine. We don’t have the power to do what the law says, but Jesus does. When we say that Jesus makes our own hearts his home, that means more than thinking of him alot or having warm feelings for him. It means Jesus himself actually lives in us, and with his life he gives us power to live a life of love.
Where does this life and power of Christ in us come from? “The life I live in the body, I live by FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME.” We call the life we live as Christians “sanctification.” But this always has its source in our justification. It is a life we have by faith in God’s own Son Jesus Christ, faith that Jesus loves me, faith that Jesus gave himself for me. As I continue to sin and confess it to Jesus, he keeps on loving me and forgiving me. He draws me closer to himself in faith. Faith in God’s grace is the thing that makes his life in us grow, and it fills us more and more with love for God and for each other.