Galatians 2:20

Sermon preached on January 08, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Sinclair Ferguson is one of the great Reformed Christian communicators of the 21
st century. In his book, Devoted to God, he tells us that when he was 15 years old, as a young Christian, he heard a sermon on Colossians 1:27,

"Christ in you, the hope of glory."

He said, (p. 68)

"I left the service knowing that my perspective on life had been changed. Christ was dwelling in me! I looked to make sure that no one was watching and skipped all the way home. It was one of the most exhilarating moments of my young life. Now I knew who I was—someone in whom the Lord Jesus had come to dwell."

I don't recall ever seeing any of you skipping out of church after a service here. What's wrong with you? Or was it that you were like Sinclair and made sure no one was looking?

But the point is that if a Christian grasps the significance of his union with Christ—it's life changing. It changes everything and if we understand it correctly—your whole outlook and attitude should change. Knowledge of this doctrine gives hope, confidence, joy, assurance of safety, gratitude to Christ and a greater appreciation for Him. It also can impart a sense of closeness to our great Savior, a closeness that comes from resting in Him.

This morning were going to look at Galatians 2:20 which sheds light on one part of this great truth. It's a truth we should know and rejoice in. The apostle Paul wrote,

"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 main thing I want you to see from this passage is the fact that

Christ lived in Paul.

Paul is here showing what our relationship to Christ is like. Paul was united to Christ. Christ's life and power was in Paul. Paul was crucified with Christ. In a sense Paul no longer lived but Christ lived in Him.

The first thing I want you to understand is that

union with Christ is multifaceted and has great implications for how we live.

Being crucified with Christ is just one example of how we are united to Christ. Ephesians 1:4 tells us that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Our union with Christ reaches back before time began.

Our good works, the good that we do, is also a result of our union with Christ. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that it is 'in Christ' that we are created anew in Christ.

"For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared
in advance for us to do."

Romans 6:4, like our text, tells us that our new life is continued by virtue of our being in Christ. It says,

"We were therefore buried with him
through baptism into death in order that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father,
we too may live a new life."

Our ability to live a new life is a result of our union with Christ.

It is also in Christ that we have been raised to heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6 says,

"And God raised us up with [in] Christ
and seated us with him
in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,"

Colossians 3:1 adds,

"Since, then, you
ave been raised with [in] Christ,
set your hearts on things above,
where Christ is seated
at the right hand of God."

1 Corinthians 15:22 tells us that it is in Christ that His people will be made alive when the last trumpet will sound. It says,

"For as in Adam all die,
so in Christ
all will be made alive."

John Murray writes, (Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, p. 164)

"We thus see that union with Christ has its source in the election of God the Father before the foundation of the world and it has its fruition in the glorification of the sons of God. The perspective of God's people is not narrow; it is broad and it is long. It is not confined to space and time; it has the expanse of eternity. Its orbit has two foci, one the electing love of God the Father in the counsels of eternity, the other glorification with Christ in the manifestation of his glory. The former has no beginning, the latter has no end. Glorification with Christ at his coming will be but the beginning of a consummation that will encompass the ages of the ages. 'So shall we ever be with the Lord' (1 Thess. 4:17)."

Paul's life and Christ's life were joined, united. That's the way it is with all Christians. Through the Spirit Christ lives in us. Paul had been crucified with or 'in' Christ, and Christ lived in Him. He was united to Christ.

One of the ways we can illustrate this is thinking of the relationship between a husband and wife. For example, sometimes, after a really busy Christmas season, with school Christmas preparations, rehearsals, concerts, church functions, shopping, guests etc., Marg will say something to me like,

"I can't believe I get to be alone tonight."

It'll be her first night without social functions, obligations or preparations in many, many days. When she says that, I could correct her and say, "But I'm going to be with you." But there is no need to do that. I know what she means. She knew that we were going to be together. Her saying, "I'm going to be alone," included me. That's the way it often is with husbands and wives. In a certain sense, in some ways, it's like they're one.

The Bible uses different images to illustrate our spiritual union with Christ. John Murray writes, (Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, p. 168)

"On the highest level of being it is compared to the union which exists between the persons of the trinity in the Godhead. This is staggering, but it is the case…"

We see this in John 17:20–23. Jesus prayed to the Father about His disciples and said,

"My prayer is not for them alone.
I pray also for those who will
believe in me through their message,
that all of them may be one,
Father, just as you are in me
and I am in you.
May they also be in us
so that the world may believe
that you have sent me.
I have given them the glory
that you gave me,
that they may be one as we are one:
I in them and you in me.
May they be brought to complete unity
to let the world know that you sent me
and have loved them even
as you have loved me."

That's incredible—that our union is compared to the union that exists between the persons of the Trinity. Murray continues,

"On the lowest level it is compared to the relation that exists between the stones of a building and the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:19–22, 1 Pet. 2:4, 5). In between these two limits there is a variety of similitude drawn from different levels of being and relationship. It is compared to the union that existed between Adam and all of posterity (Rom. 5:12–19, 1 Cor. 15:19–49). It is compared to the union that exists between man and wife (Eph. 5:22–33; cf. John 3: 29). It is compared to the union that exists between the head and the other members in the human body (Eph. 4:15, 16). It is compared to the relation of the vine to the branches (John 15)."

That's how Scripture represents our union with Christ.

In our text

the union depicted is with Christ in His death.

Paul wrote,

"I have been crucified with Christ…"

Sinclair Ferguson tells us that the heart of union with Christ which Paul emphasizes here is this: (p. 63)

"when we trusted into him who was crucified for us there is a sense in which we also came to share in his crucifixion. Paul does not mean that he died physically but rather that united to Christ all the implications of his being crucified for us became our possession."

Ferguson goes on to say that we 'died' out of the old family we belonged to by nature—the family of Adam. The 'old man', (p. 63-64)

"the person I was in Adam—was crucified with Christ. As a result, all the claims the old fallen order had on me have come to an end."

But Paul went on to say that he lived and that Christ lived in Him. This shows that

the death of Christ, in which Paul was united to Him, had great implications for Paul.

Just as Christ was raised to a new life, we also have been raised with Him. Ferguson writes, (p. 64)

"all the implications of his resurrection became my possession too, even if they are not yet all worked out completely."

Christ's death and resurrection means that Christ is now the principle power, the principle purpose, the principle motivation, the principle being of our life.

Let me illustrate what it's not like. A while ago I saw an interview with a guy who had bone marrow transplant. He said his donor was a 19 year old woman. He went on to say that his blood now is different than regular male blood—that his blood has an extra female chromosome in it. That's what he said. If that's true, in a very small sense, part of their biology has merged.

But that's something that has, I believe, no implications for his life. If his doctor hadn't told him about it, he wouldn't be aware of anything being different. Our being crucified with Christ is not like that. It has radical transforming implications. If that guy gradually turned into a girl—that would be more like union with Christ. Christ's resurrected life is given to us and we live a new life through Him, because of our union with Him. Because we are united to Christ, we are transformed.

It's noteworthy that Paul used the perfect tense when he spoke of him being crucified with Christ. In New Testament Greek, the perfect tense, (Wallace, The Basics of New Testament Syntax, p. 246)

"The force of the perfect tense is simply that it describes an event that, completed in the past…has results existing in the present time."

In our text, Paul's emphasis is on Christ's life—being operative, working, living in Him. He wrote,

"I no longer live,
but Christ lives in me."

In Christ, Paul and Christians have a new principle of life. At the end of verse 19 Paul stated that he lived for God. Calvin says that the idea there is that Paul lives,

'the life of God'.

Calvin writes that a Christian, (Galatians p. 42)

"does not live by his own life but is animated by the secret power of Christ, so that Christ may be said to live and grow in him… as the soul quickens the body, so Christ imparts life to His members."

There are two applications we should make from this:

The first application is this: in our growth in holiness, in our battle against the flesh, against the powers of evil,

we must rely on Christ, not on our own strength.

Sinclair Ferguson writes, (p. 56)

"Our sanctification takes place in union with Christ and not apart from him."

"the resources for our Christian life are in Jesus Christ and not in ourselves."

We must rely on Christ's power, Christ's strength. Philippians 4:13 says,

"I can do everything
through him who gives me strength."

In John 15:5 Jesus said

"I am the vine;
you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him,
he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing."

He is the vine, we are the branches. What we can do through our union with Him is incredible. We can say 'no' to temptation and sin. We should and can be holy. Sin will not have dominion over us. We will be holy. It's all because of our union with Christ.

Secondly, this means that

you should realize that Christ is in you and live accordingly.

We ought to realize that this union with Christ is more than just us being united to Christ's power. We need to realize what and who we have in Christ. John Calvin writes, (Institutes 3:2:24)

"But since Christ has been so imparted to you with all his benefits that all his things are made yours, that you are made a member of him, indeed one with him, his righteousness overwhelms your sins; his salvation wipes out your condemnation; with his worthiness he intercedes that your unworthiness may not come before God's sight."

Calvin continues and says that we ought not to think of Christ as standing afar off but realize that He, Himself, is dwelling in us. He writes that Christ,

makes us, ingrafted into his body, participants not only in all his benefits but also in himself."

This is important. Don't miss it. It's not just that all the benefits of Christ's work that comes to you—but Christ Himself comes to dwell in you. Your fellowship is with Him. He is in you. You are united to Him.

In Christ, you can stand in this world, with your head high knowing that Christ is in you. Your sins have been washed away. As Romans 8:1 says,

"Therefore, there is now
no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus…"

Christ's righteousness is given to you. But even more than that, Christ Himself has been given to you. You are 'in Him'.

Your mind should take it in, your attitude toward your life should change. You should have boldness. We have been raised to a new life in Christ. Let us live in such a way that acknowledges that.

When dictator Saddam Hussein was put on trial in Iraq after he was overthrown, it was reported that many in the courtroom cowered when he was brought in. They were visibly shaken by his presence. Even though he was restrained, even though he was the one on trial, even though he had lost his power—they cowered because they were frightened. That tyrant had spend years terrorizing his countrymen. Even though Hussein was in shackles, many were visibly frightened, shaken.

That was inappropriate. The court was assembled to try him for his crimes against his people. He had oppressed, tortured and murdered many of his citizens. Except for his defense lawyers, the people were there to prosecute him or to witness the trial and see justice done.

If you're Christian, your sin should no longer terrorize you. It has been paid for. You are free from it. It should not terrorize you, hold you in bondage, make you fearful. No.

I've heard that when slavery was abolished in the South after the Civil War that some of the former slaves couldn't process it. Sinclair Ferguson writes, p. 68-69)

"externally they were free, but internally the marks, the habits, the dispositions and mentality produced by years and generations of enslavement remained. They were free men, but they were never able to enjoy that freedom."

We Christians shouldn't be like that. Ferguson, (p. 69)

"We have been set free; we have received new identity in Christ; we have been crucified with him who died for us; we have been raised into the new life we live by faith in him who dwells in us."

Christians be bold. Christ lives in you. Your victory has been assured.

Like Moses before Pharaoh, like David before Goliath, like Peter, John before the Sanhedrin, like Paul before Sanhedrin, before Felix, Festus and King Agrippa— you can stand boldly before any human or spiritual evil opposed to you. You can resist them (and perhaps even lose your life in doing so), but by your words and action you will be able to give honor, praise and glory to Jesus Christ.

May God give us grace to do it.