THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL IN PAUL’S LIFE—continued (Gal. 2:19-21)
Now Paul lives an altogether different kind of life. He lives the life of one who has been crucified with Christ, and who was raised up from the dead with him. (Rom. 6:6-10) Paul’s old man has been crucified with Christ. Yes, he still lives but not as heretofore. Really the subjective spiritual impulse of Paul’s life is no more Paul. He is not the center of it any more. Christ lives inme. That is the difference. Paul is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. His mind is really Christ’s mind in him, and his will is Christ’s desire in him, in such a way that Paul and Christ are united as Vine and branch, Head and member of the body. Without me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5) Here is the mystic, spiritual union of a living faith. Here is that mystery of which Christ speaks when he says, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10) Paul as the crucified one with Christ lives a resurrection-life, a newness of life. That is the positive side of Christ’s life.
This he expresses as “living unto God.” Here the old Paul no more lives, the one who would be justified by the works of the law, to perform works of merit. That Paul is dead forever! He can never again return to those things which he now counts as so much loss and dung for the sake of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. (Phil. 3:7, 8) Now he serves the Lord His God with a free and good conscience. Now more dead works are his. (Heb. 9:14) He did serve sin but now he serves God, lives unto God. Yet, this life is not of Paul but of Christ. For Christ died. He died unto sin, the sin of all His, people as Head of the covenant. Now he arose from the dead. He lives now as the Prophet, Priest, and King unto God. And we, Paul and all the saints, live in this life of Christ unto God through the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s law is written in our hearts; we are not under law but under grace!
Yes, Paul lives in the flesh. This is not the same as living according to the flesh. In the latter sense “flesh” denotes the principle and the operation of sin and death. But living in the flesh means that Paul is still flesh and blood in this world until he dies. He must live the remainder of his earthly sojourn and pilgrimage in this flesh, this entire human nature, soul and body. He speaks of what he “now” lives in the flesh in distinction from what he will live when he will no longer live in this flesh in the ages to come. Flesh and blood and all human ties of the flesh shall then be no more. (I Cor. 15:50-52; Matt. 22:23-33) But what Paul now lives in the flesh, in every relationship in this flesh, under both tables of the Decalogue, he “lives in the faith of the Son of God.” This is the faith by which he is justified in Christ. That he here speaks of the “faith of the Son of God” does not refer to the faith whereby Jesus lived, but refers to Paul’s faith of which God is the object of all his reverence, worship, and holy expectation. His faith is in Jesus as the Son of God. That is the quintessence of Paul’s faith. God sent His Son to die for us in our flesh. Immanuel, God-with-us, is the very essence of the covenant life. All God’s promises are fulfilled in His beloved Son, in whom He is well-pleased. (Matt. 3:17) That is the essence of God’s decree. Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:17; Acts 13:33) This is all fulfilled in Christ’s death and resurrection. By this faith Paul lives. It is the faith in the Son of God, Who is powerfully revealed to be God’s Son in the resurrection out of the dead. (Rom. 1:4)
What a rock-bottom assurance this faith in the Son is. He is the one Who loved Paul, loved all His own to the end. (John 13:1) And this love is such that it gave the sacrifice of love. It fulfilled the law of God. It was the “coin” which was necessary for payment and fulfilment of God’s justice, His just command. What the law could not do in that it was weak through sin, that is what God did in sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, that sin might be condemned in the flesh, that the just demand of God might be fulfilled in Paul (in us) who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, in the flesh. (Rom. 8:3, 4)
Yes, the Son of God was “delivered” unto death for us. Paul says, he was “delivered for me.” And this “me” is very emphatic in the text, being placed in the emphatic position in the sentence. Besides, the form of the pronoun me (emou) is very emphatic. Here is the key-note of the Gospel as it is picked up in the Heidelberg Catechism in Question and Answer 1. And, once more, here is an argument which comes straight from Paul’s believing heart. Had Paul given beautiful dialectic apology of faith in the verses 15-18, here he gives the final and most basic apology in confessing what was written upon the very table of his heart. Here are the rivers of water which flow from his bowels in Christ Jesus. He has a full and blessed heart and his lips overflow with praise.
CHRIST DID NOT DIE IN VAIN (Gal. 2:21)
There are here two alternatives given by Paul. Righteousness is either by works of the law, or they are by grace in Christ’s death. There is no in-between; it is either-or, not both-and. Works are works and grace is grace! (Rom. 11:6)
Now if salvation were possible even for one moment by law, and the law had power to save us and to make the sinfully weak man strong to keep it (Rom. 8:3), then we would not need the Son of God to love us, and give Himself for our sins on the cross. The cross would be purposeless and useless and unnecessary. Calvary would not be necessary. The travelers to Emmaus would indeed have been on the right track when they muse that if Christ now lives, why did He have to die. Then the Cross would be in vain; Christ would have “died in vain.” We did not really need a Savior; we could save ourselves by the keeping of the law, as asserts the proud heresy of Pelagius and all who hate the Cross of Christ. Then the “grace of God” would have to be set aside for works of law. But that is what Paul will not do! He will glory in the Cross of Christ.
Well may Peter and all those in Antioch take this to heart. And the Galatian churches must not change this Gospel for another gospel, which is not another, but is mere disturbance of the faith, a great and troublesome plague under the sun. Upon those who would rob the church of her liberty the wrath of God comes, yea, abides.
THE THREEFOLD QUESTIONS OF GALATIANS 3:1-5
We do well to write verbatim what these questions are. 1. O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you? 2. Did you receive the Spirit out of works of law or by the hearing of faith; having begun in the spirit are ye made perfect by the flesh? 3. Is the supply of the Spirit and the Worker of miracles in you such, that it is out of the works of law, or by the hearing of faith?
Paul now will develop on the background of these questions, questions which to ask are to give the correct answer, the great relationship between Old and New Testament, the promise and the fulfilment. And he brings in the example of the faith of Abraham, the father of all believers, both of the Old Testament and the New Testament saints, to show that justification cannot be anything else but out of the faith of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Seed. This chapter then ends in the grand conclusion “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 3:26), and again in verse 29, “and if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.”
Now let us try to analyze these questions here set forth by Paul to the Galatian churches.
The first question by implication accuses the Galatians of “being bewitched.” They must have been brought under the “spell” of some charmer, even as snakes are charmed by men. They surely are not in their right mind to set aside the Cross of Christ for a teaching of salvation by “works of law” which we must perform. Did Paul have some individual man or woman in mind when he asks “who?” (tis) in Gal. 5:7? He asks “Who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” At any rate, when Paul sees the glory of the Cross of Christ, and the preaching of this Cross in all its vividness and clarity, he has reasons to doubt the spiritual sanity of these fickle Galatians.
Yes, these Galatians show themselves as those who are without understanding of the Gospel and spiritual truths of the Gospel. Paul calls them “anoeetoi,” without understanding, without a mind which perceives reality. They are not called “fools” in the sense of those who say: there is no God. It is the same term which Jesus uses to arrest the attention of the two travelers to Emmaus. There the term “fools” (without understanding) is connected with their being “slow of heart to believe” all the Scriptures concerning the truth that the Christ “must” suffer all these things to enter into his glory. (Luke 24:25) They were such who needed their mind enlightened, and they needed basic opening of all the Scriptures, beginning with Moses, the Psalms and all the Prophets. Thus it is also here with these Galatians. They need instruction in the basics once more, even though Christ had been so very clearly and powerfully preached in their midst.
Paul employs a very graphic description here in this connection, “before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you.” Christ is “portrayed” in the midst of the Galatians. The term in the Greek is “proegraphee,” to write before, to set forth in the most “graphic” manner. When Paul was finished preaching in the midst of the Galatians it was so vivid, that the congregation had stood near the Cross of Christ itself, and had grasped the meaning for their lives that they are sinners, who were in need of this salvation, as “sinners” out of the Gentiles. But now they are “so soon” fallen away from Him Who ‘called them to faith and hope and salvation to another “gospel” which denied the Cross and all of its implications. Truly they must be bewitched!
The second question is really the crucial question in the mind of Paul to which the correct answer determines the matter in the mind and experience of the Galatians. It is a matter of the subjective “receiving” of the Spirit of Christ in their lives to give them faith in the Son of God. What was their spiritual psychological experience in this regard? Did they forsooth have to perform a lot of works of the Levitical law to become Christians? Did they need to pass through the door of Jewry and keep the law of the Old Testament shadows first? Did they first need to be circumcised according to the law? Is that how they experienced the operation of the Spirit in their lives and in their midst? Or, did they hear the Gospel of the Cross, and did they believe it, and was this faith the evidence of the working of the Spirit in their mind and heart? That is the crucial question which should bring them to their senses.