Being “right” is such a high value in our society. No one wants to be wrong or accused of being wrong; we often respond quickly – and hotly – when we’re told we’re wrong! And it seems one of the rarest things you’ll hear said is, “You know what, you’re right. I was wrong. I’m sorry.” Instead, most of society gallivants along, declaring themselves absolutely right and anyone who disagrees with them is absolutely wrong.
This is perhaps why it should be stunning to see in Galatians this week, “by the works of the law no human being will be justified” (Gal 2:16). If you’ve been around the church for a while, perhaps this is a truth you’ve heard before. But pause, and sit in it for a moment: there is no one, before God, who will be declared, “right” because of what they’ve done.
There is no one who will stand before God and be told, “You know what? You nailed it. Because of what you did – because of how you acted – because of the truths you shared, the knowledge you possessed, the understanding you brought to bear – you’re right.”
Those words will never be said.
And yet, Scripture tells us that we can be right before God – both in our identity but also in how we live – but also that we are wholly dependent on God for that righteousness. And this week, we saw this truth in the text through an amazing parallel.
Across the Whole Book
When reading and studying the Bible, it’s often helpful to read large passages in one sitting. Woodlands in the Word takes us through a single chapter each day, but that spreads books out over weeks or sometimes even a month. That’s a pretty slow pace! While it’s good to read any Scripture, perhaps you missed in the reading this week this parallel between Monday’s reading and Thursday’s reading:
I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Monday, Gal 2:20)
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Thursday, Gal 5:24-25)
Both passages speak to being crucified with Christ. Both passages speak to being right and living right. Both passages speak to the same reality leading us towards righteousness. But both passages also speak about different contexts, and that’s important to see.
Crucified With Christ, Once
The first context focuses on our standing before God: does God see us as righteous, or unrighteous? According to our actions or according to following the law, Paul says in Galatians 2, we are all unrighteous! Always. But, because of the majesty of the gospel and through trust, we have been united with Christ in his crucifixion and death, effectively killing our sins in His body on the cross. Through our trust in Christ, we have been effectively crucified; our sins have been punished and we are declared righteous.
This is the great truth of the gospel, and it is a reality the redefines eternity. It’s a reality we need to understand deeply, and in this truth, we can rest. Because we have been crucified with Christ, eternity is secured and we have no fear beyond the grave. What an amazing reality!
Crucified to Christ, Daily
But the second context speaks less to then – eternity – and more to now – today. In Galatians 5, Paul picks up the analogy of crucifixion and says, “Just as Christ’s crucifixion is the means by which we are declared righteous, so too it is the daily reality by which we put to death that which would keep us from living rightly.”
This is right at the tail end of the section on the Fruit of the Spirit; Paul is saying, “This is how you’re to live! You’re to live not wrongly, as we want to do in the flesh, but rightly, as the Spirit leads us towards.” And how do we move from flesh to Spirit? Through the finished crucifixion of Christ, come to fullness in our lives.
Jesus’ work on the cross doesn’t just produce an eternal reality, but rather provides truth that empowers every aspect of life. Rather than just eternity, the whole life of a Christ-follower is fueled by Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is not a minute of a day that goes by that we are not fully dependent on Christ’s crucifixion for our righteousness.
Is there a greater transformational truth than that, “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3)? No! It is the means by which we are united to God, and by which we live for God. It is the heartbeat of Paul’s letters, and it needs to be the foundation upon which we build our lives.
And so, as Paul encouraged the Galatians, we also need to remember and rest in Christ’s crucifixion. We need to remember and rest in our crucifixion with Christ. What might this look like on a daily basis?
Pray: We pray, regularly and throughout the day, whether at home, or with friends, or at work, or at play, asking that God would keep in our mind the reality of our identity.
Read: We read Scripture and other books, looking for reminders of our unity with the crucified Christ.
Speak: We remind those around us who follow Jesus – starting with our spouses or family – that they have been crucified with Christ. We ask other believers to remind us often.
Place: Finally, we find and place reminders around ourselves. In Deuteronomy, these were passages of Scripture written on door frames, or literally tied to a person’s forehead (Deut 6:6-9). Today, it might include artwork in your house, or phone backgrounds, or text reminders.
All of this comes from intentionality – and it is intentionality that draws us to faithfully follow Jesus.
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Read along with us in Woodlands in the Word! Text BIBLE to 888-225-7675 for a link to each weekday’s Bible reading and prayer prompts!