I knew that would get your attention.
Donald McCullough wrote, “Grace means that in the middle of our struggle the referee blows the whistle and announces the end of the game. We are declared winners and sent to the showers. It’s over for all huffing, puffing piety to earn God’s favor; its over for all sweat-soaked straining to secure self-worth; it’s the end of all competitive scrambling to get ahead of others in the game. Grace means that God is on our side and thus we are victorious regardless of how well we have played the game. We might as well head for the showers and the Champaign celebration.” Brennan Manning, Ragamuffin Gospel, pg. 76
Grace means that God is on our side is good news for millions of us who struggle with guilt and feelings of defeat and discouragement. John Stott wrote that grace is simply God’s unmerited love for us. I like that idea. As Philip Yancey points out in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace there is nothing we can do to make God love us more than He does and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less than He does. (p. 71) And most importantly there is nothing we can do to earn merit or favor with God when it comes to our salvation.
I love the following verses in Galatians and find myself returning to them time after time, “For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and 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. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.” Galatians 2:19-21 Romans 3:20 further reminds us, “For no human being will be justified in His sight by works of the law, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”
Why do so many Christians struggle over the law? Do we really believe there is no free lunch and therefore the Gospel is “too good to be true”? I don’t know or understand why so many people are drawn to law/obedience religion when Jesus calls us to freedom (Galatians 5:1). Paul reminds the Galatians that he had died to the law that he might live to God and if you really could do something to earn merit towards your salvation then Jesus died needlessly.
The whole point of Scripture is to let us know that we can’t save ourselves. There is nothing we can do to earn merit for ourselves. Why is that so important to understand? Because of the Bible’s emphasis that Jesus did it all. He came to earth and lived a perfect sinless life, and thus fulfilled the requirements of the law. He died on Calvary’s Cross as my perfect substitute, therefore, fulfilling the law’s penalty. How do I add anything to the Cross? If I believe that anything good that I do makes God more prone to want to save me then I am belittling what happened when Jesus hung on that Cross as my Savior. To take away any aspect of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice by substituting my own works is to rob Him of His perfect life and death on my behalf.
J.G. Machen in his book, Machen’s Notes on Galatians states, “ Paul is contending in this great epistle not for a spiritual view of the law as over against externalism or ceremonialism; he is contending for the grace of God as over against human merit in any form.” Pg. 156-157
I want us to notice one other important aspect of Galatians 2:20. Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me.” What does it mean to be “crucified with Christ”? Obviously the death of Jesus is a one time unique event in human history that can’t be repeated, so what is Paul saying?
I found a beautiful summary of what I believe is going on in this passage in Timothy George’s Commentary on Galatians. “With reference to His substitutionary suffering and vicarious death, only Jesus, and He alone, can be the substitute and Vicar. And yet—-this is Paul’s point— the very benefits of Christ’s atoning death, including first of all justification, are without effect unless we are identified with Christ in His death and resurrection.” Galatians, P.199
John Calvin writes, “As long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from Him, all that He has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value to us.” Institutes, 3:1.1
So, what are these men saying about what it means to be crucified with Christ? I believe they are saying to be crucified with Christ is to die to the law. We are free from the curse and guilt of the law and thus free to live our life for God. To know Jesus died for me is not good enough. As Calvin states it so well, we must accept that reality into our life. We, as Christians, die to the law method of earning salvation and instead find shelter in the grace of God. Security, happiness and joy in the Christian walk can only happen when we turn from the law method of earning salvation and instead live in the joy of free Grace. As I have written on this blog before we must never start out with Jesus (grace) and end with Moses (the law). We must begin with Jesus and end with Jesus our all in all.