“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.”
The apostle Peter had defected and played the part of a hypocrite!
While he was in Jerusalem and gathered there with the apostles and elders, he had concluded with them that Christ was the end of the law to all who believe, whether of the Jews or the Gentiles. He confessed withthem that the church of the new dispensation enjoyed a peculiar freedom which those of the old dispensation could not and did not possess. He showed to the church that spiritually the distinction between Jew and Gentile no longer existed, and therefore he thought nothing of it to eat with the Gentiles.
But when he came to Antioch he withdrew himself, urging others, even Barnabas, to withdraw with him, refusing to eat with the Gentiles out of fear of them who were of the circumcision. Evidently he advocated a return to the Old Testament ceremonies.
And Paul withstood Peter to the face before all the church!
The apostle showed clearly how hypocritically Peter had acted. How on the one hand he purported to be justified by the work of Christ; while on the other, he encouraged the ceremonial rites—work righteousness. The apostle makes plain how the one simply excludes the other. Either Christ is all our righteousness, and the works of the law are of no value; or, the law is still in force, and Christ has died in vain. Having Peter and those who dissembled with him in mind, Paul declares that if he believed both, and acted accordingly, he must needs be a transgressor. This is what Peter was!
No, says the apostle, the law has made me dead, in order that I should live unto God. That was the very purpose of the law—that it should slay me. Through my inability to fulfill it, I know my misery and death. Thus the law was as a school-master leading me to Christ and through Him to God and life. I am crucified with Christ, and because I am become one plant with Him; I also now live—because Christ lives in me.
Hence, 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!
The text may very well be understood in the figure of a circle with its parts. There is first of all the circumference; then the radius, i.e., the line drawn from the center to the circumference; and then there is the center of the circle. If one were to determine the circumference, geometry has posited the theorem—radius squared times Pi (3.1416) equals circumference. Paul is speaking in the text about the circumference of his life—it is in his flesh. To reckon what that life must be, you must take into consideration the radius, that is, faith of the Son of God, and the center where the radius begins, namely, the life of Christ which is in the center of my life. So we have: Living Christ’s life in our flesh!
Notice, first of all, then the source of this life!
Paul makes special emphasis in the first part of the verse 20 that: Christ liveth in me!
“Nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me!”
Here it is plain that the apostle lives, yet the life he lives is not his but Christ’s, which lives in him. So the source of his life is Christ!
Take special note of this name! It is the Savior’s official name. It refers to Him in His official capacity, as the Anointed Servant of God. It designates Him as the one who is both appointed and qualified by the Holy Spirit to give life.
Son of God!
Mere man cannot give life. Not even Christ according to His human nature. Man, also Christ according to His human nature, is dependent on God for life. God only can and does give life, and He does it in and through His Son. Jesus Himself said, “Even as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself, and to give it to whomsoever He will.” (John 5:26).
Life—What is life?
Like so many other concepts we so freely use yet find so difficult to define, so is the concept—life. Even the dictionary gives no final satisfaction in defining what life essentially is. This does not mean, however, that we are entirely at a loss to observe some of its characteristics. For example, if we look at the organism the tree, it is easy to observe that the life of a tree is its constant adaptation to the law in which this creature was created, namely, the soil, and the air, in which it is planted. Remove it from the soil and deprive it of air, and the tree dies. The same is true, for example, of the fish. The law for the fish is the water. As long as the fish can constantly adapt itself to that law which was created for this creature it is said to live. Remove the fish from the water and it dies.
Though it may be a little more difficult to define the life of man, the rational-moral creature, because he is more than an animal, nevertheless also here the principle applies. Man may be said to possess a two-fold nature; on the one hand there is the earthly aspect in which like the animal he must constantly adapt himself to the law of his creation, the soil and air, to live. He must have bread to eat and water to drink and air to breathe. But man was so created that he cannot live by bread alone. He is more than an animal. He is a rational-moral-spiritual being, who was created to stand in the law of God: the law that dictates: Thou shalt love Me with all thine heart and mind and soul and strength. In one word, man was created in the image of God. So long as man abode in that law he lived. As soon as he removed himself from that law he died. Now the natural man is born spiritually dead. Physically and naturally he lives as long as he breathes air, eats bread, and drinks water. Spiritually, however, he is unable to adapt himself to the law of the love of God. He is therefore spiritually dead.
Here is the miracle of grace! God recreates those whom He has chosen, not only restoring to them the life man originally possessed before the fall, but raising it up to eternal, heavenly life in and through His Son, Who is called in the Scriptures not only the Prince of life, but also the expressed image of the Father. So that the elect of God are recreated into the image of Christ. They possess in principle the life of regeneration, resurrection life—life that can never end. So that they not only know God but love Him with all their hearts. “This is eternal life, that they may know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.” (John 17:3). United to Christ so perfectly are they that when He was crucified they were crucified, when He died they died, when He arose they arose, when He ascended up on high they ascended, and in Christ they now live in heavenly places. As the apostle expresses it, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
The Source of my life is the Son of God!
Who loved me!
Who gave Himself for me!
Constantly adapted to Him I live!
He is the center of my life!
But how does that life become manifest? How does it appear in the circumference of my life as I live it in the flesh in the midst of the world?
The apostle now points to the radius, that is, the line drawn from the center to the circumference, when he says: “I live by the faith of the Son of God.”
Faith! A certain, assured, spiritual knowledge; and a hearty confidence!
Not my hand that clings to Christ! But God’s gift, and God’s power, uniting me so perfectly to the Son of God that His life dwells in me consciously. And it lies in the nature of this faith that it gives nothing, it does not contribute; but only receives. It feeds on the Son of God as He is revealed in the Scriptures, the gospel of our salvation.
Faith—God’s means to unite me to Christ in Whom is all my salvation, grounding me in the life of regeneration, and worked in me by His Word and Spirit.
Faith—my means to consciously appropriate that life of Christ the Son of God. That life of Christ does not flow to me, as water through a conduit; but I subjectively and consciously appropriate it with an assured and spiritual knowledge and hearty confidence in such a way that I taste that life of Christ, the Son of the living God, and live out of that life while I live in the flesh in the present evil world.
Thus the life of Christ becomes manifested in the circumference!
Which I now live in the flesh!
That is, the body of this flesh, this mortal flesh wherewith I come into contact with the world, this present evil world in which I am called to be as of the party of the living God.
That flesh that never willeth any good thing! That never wants to go to heaven, that always delights in that which is sinful, that always causes me grief, that never wants to do the will of God! That flesh also has its town will, and still often brings me into subjection to the evil. Hence, as the same apostle expresses it in his epistle to the Romans: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:21-24a).
Nevertheless I live!
And the life I live in the flesh is the life of the Son of God!
And this life I live by faith!
Victorious life it is, because it is born of God! “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (I John 5:4).
Thus what is essentially invisible becomes visible in my life as I live it in the body of this flesh which would not have it so. It must become manifest that Christ lives in me and that the life I really possess proceeds from the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me.
He saved me in order that I might live unto Him. And if it is He Who lives in me, my life must surely become manifest as Christ-like!
He Who loved me so much that He gave Himself for me to the shameful and bitter death of the cross, cannot rest until I shall be perfectly like Him!
In principle this already becomes manifest as I walk by faith which proceeds from Him and of which He is the Author and Finisher, and which is seen even as I walk in the flesh in the present evil world.
By and by, when I shall walk no longer in the body of this sinful flesh, but in the glorious body of the resurrection, He shall behold me in the perfection of his likeness.
That will be glory for me!
For you, too, my reader?
Say Amen, and Amen!