If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulationsGalatians 2:20
One of the greatest verses in the whole bible is Galatians 2:20. In the second half of the verse, the Apostle Paul writes, “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me”. Nowadays, many people claim to be Christians. In fact, some nations even claim to be Christian nations. But what is a Christian? In this declaration, Paul sums up Christianity by two words. Flesh and faith.
Paul often uses “flesh” to mean his sinful nature. However, here he has in mind his physical body. Paul is teaching that a Christian’s body is controlled by God’s grace. Their energy and strength obeys Christ and is not poured out in pursuit of sinful pleasure. No longer does their tongue gossip and lie but it praises God and speaks the truth. No longer do their eyes lust but instead read God’s word. Food and drink are no longer offered to the idol of one’s belly but instead are utilised for energy to serve others. The mind thinks about God’s greatness not self-gratification and the soul feeds on truth instead of shrivelling while the body maintains perfect health. In short, when someone is united to Christ, their flesh is ruled by his grace not their sinful passions.
“Faith” is the second word Paul employs to describe the Christian. Faith is the opposite of works. Do you have a crushing sense of guilt when others are disappointed in you? When you have a problem that can’t be solved, is your answer always to “just work harder”? Do you find yourself obsessed by performance? Constantly monitoring your progress or failures? Are you unable to relax because of a deep-seated insecurity? If so, you are living by works, not by faith. Or maybe you live by wishful thinking just hoping that all will turn out well. Or perhaps, you listen to positive messages or a life coach that tells you you’re special. Against all of these options, Paul lived by faith.
Faith is a steady, unwavering look at Jesus Christ. Faith is a constant consideration of Christ’s greatness and a realisation that he has done something wonderful for sinners by dying on the cross, bearing all of their sins in his body. In order to be accepted by a holy God, faith receives as a free gift Christ’s perfect righteousness instead of using any works done by oneself. One old hymn says this, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling…foul I to the fountain fly, wash me Saviour or I die”. That is true Christianity.
May God give you grace to trust in Christ alone and no longer live by guilt or fear.