Online Bible Commentary
Christ Lives in Me
Galatians 2:17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing to believers in southern Galatia from his home in Antioch, Syria in 49 A.D, prior to the Jerusalem Council meeting which occurred that same year. Paul has just completed his first missionary journey in which he and Barnabas planted churches in southern Galatia at Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. This letter is the first of Paul’s letters.
The churches in Galatia, influenced by Judaizers, have already turned from Paul’s Gospel to a false gospel of a mix of works and grace instead of grace alone. Judaizers claimed that Christians must also follow the Old Testament law, including circumcision. So Paul is writing to the Galatian believers to direct them back to the true Gospel.
Paul writes of his confrontation with Peter for the part he played in supporting the Judaizers. This confrontation occurred when Peter came to Paul’s church in Antioch, Syria. Paul confronted Peter because of his hypocrisy in his relations with the Gentile believers there. He was treating them as second class citizens to the Jewish believers because the Gentiles were not following the Law, which, among other things, required circumcision.
In this passage, Paul continues to write of his confrontation with Peter. He writes that Christ is not “a minister of sin” (v. 17). Christ’s promise was that salvation comes through His grace and not our good works (v. 16). If obeying the Law is also required for salvation then Christ has sinned by breaking his promise.
Paul writes that he makes himself a sinner “if I build again those things which I destroyed” (v. 18). Perhaps Paul is referring to those idols that we “build”. An idol is anything or anyone we put before God. We also call this sin. When we sin we put something else before God.
The Bible identifies sin and calls us to refrain from sin. When we become Christians we “die to the Law” and “live to God” (v. 19). We no longer want to obey the Bible so that we won’t be punished, but to please God. Christ has already taken our punishment upon Himself when He died in our place on the cross. The penalty for sin is death but Christ paid the penalty for us. There is nothing to fear.
So instead of wanting to live righteously out of fear of God we want to live righteously to please God. The desire is the same but the motivation is different.
When Christ was crucified we died too (v. 20a). Our old sinful self died. Christ no longer sees our sin. Our sin is covered by the blood of Christ. Christ has imputed His righteousness upon us. He sees us without sin, even though we still sin.
So when we become a Christian we die to our old sinful self and “Christ lives” in us as we put our faith in Him (v. 20b). The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, comes to live in us when we become a Christian and helps us to live a righteous life that pleases Christ. We want to please Christ because He “loved me and gave Himself for me” (v. 20c).
We would “set aside the grace of God” (v. 21a), we would not need God’s grace, “if righteousness comes” through obeying the Bible. If that were so “then Christ died in vain” (v. 21b). We would not have needed Him to die on the cross; we would not need a Savior. But we are not always able to obey the Bible. So we need a Savior.
Jesus Christ is that Savior. Christ lives in me so that I may live in Him.