Paul showed us the heart of the Christian life. We live because Christ lives in us. We can live differently because He lives in us and because we no longer live. In the words of the King James Version, real life is possible because it is Not I but Christ.
Paul famously expressed it this way: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, KJV).
Notice the opposites in the passage. Some have even called it a riddle.
First, Paul affirmed that God had worked in his life to die to self and to bring him new life. “I am crucified with Christ” means Paul has shared in Christ’s faith event–the crucifixion and resurrection. Since he has shared in the death of Christ, the old man no longer lives. He has died with Christ. “The old has passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17)”. Because Paul has been united to Christ in his crucifixion, Paul’s old sinful past has been covered over and removed.
Second, Paul no longer lives: rather, Christ lives in him. In one sense, we live this new life through faith in Christ. In another sense, we do not live at all. Christ lives in us.
This truth has profound significance for our new life. Think of what it means for Christ to live in you. You are new and Christ is living in you and for you. How could you ever go back to a life of sin?
Third, living by faith in Christ changes everything. Christ in us (Colossians 1:27) is our hope of glory. Christ living in us is a game-changer. Our lives are new and our desires are different. Though we may sin again, we no longer desire to turn again to the old sinful life.
Finally, what Christ did is personal. Paul made it personal: “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Earlier in the verse, Paul said “Christ lives in me.” What Christ did is personal to us and changes us forever.
“The whole tenor of our life has changed. Everything is different now, because we ourselves are different. . . .No Christian who has grasped these truths could ever seriously contemplate reverting to the old life” John R.W. Stott, The Message of Galatians, 66.
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