Summary: The Gospel of Cross from Galatians calls for responsible, faithful freedom in Christ.
The Life We Live
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: Galatians is small but important. Martin Luther said he considered it the most important book in the New Testament. It contains only six chapters and one hundred forty-eight verses. Each chapter is stuffed full of vital lessons for Christians then and now. Our text, Galatians 2:20, provides the heart of the book’s message. Tonight I want to use this verse as the framework from which to look at the entire book.
Note how the verse has two connected halves. The verse forms a circle. The two halves each speak of two subjects. Both halves talk of death and life. The whole verse actually speaks of two deaths and two lives—Christ’s and ours. The first half of the verse begins with death. “I have been crucified with Christ.” It then moves to life. “Christ lives in me.” The second half of the verse reverses the order. It begins with life. “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.” This second half then ends on the subject of Christ’s death much like the first half began. “Who loved me and gave himself up for me.” Together the two halves form a circle of life—the life we live in Christ. Let’s work our way around this circle.
I have been crucified with Christ. The message of the cross was the heart of Paul’s Gospel. That’s what he had proclaimed to the Galatians when he first came as a missionary a few years before. He is probably referring to this preaching of the cross when he reminds them in 3:1, “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” His message made the cross real and personal. Galatians begins with this emphasis, “Grace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father… (1:3-4).
Not everyone likes that message, then or now. I needn’t remind you of the controversy created by The Passion of the Christ last year. Many Hollywood types who routinely applauded the sleaziest films imaginable suddenly complained that The Passion was too gory and violent. It was gory and violent, but it was also historically accurate. The real problem for many was the same problem the cross has always created. Paul says in his day, “The preaching of the cross was a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” But he insisted it was the power of God.
Why the problem with the message of the cross? Three reasons—who, how, and why. All three are hinted at in the opening of our verse. Some object to the claims about Christ. The gospel insists that it was not just anyone who died. He was the Christ, the Messiah. He was the Son of the Living God coming to earth to reveal the will of heaven in flesh. That’s incredible, many insist. A God who would die! Do you believe that?
Second, some object to how he died. Crucifixion was not a pretty picture. I won’t go into all of the gory details again. You have all heard it before. It might be one thing for a Messiah to die, but in that way? That was too much. The cross was over the top. It is!
If who died and how he died wasn’t enough, the clincher was what the Gospel claimed about why he died. He didn’t die for his own crimes. He did die as a victim of men’s brutality. He wasn’t just a victim. He was a sacrifice. He laid down his life for our sins. Indeed he died for us, not himself. That’s how our verse closes. “He gave up himself for me.” This is the heart of the Christian message. We can easily forget that. Some think we should.
Evangelist D. M. Stearns tells of a conversation following a preaching appearance in Philadelphia some years ago. At the close of the service a stranger came up to him and said, "I don’t like the way you spoke about the cross. I think that instead of emphasizing the death of Christ, it would be far better to preach Jesus, the teacher and example."
Stearns replied, "If I presented Christ in that way, would you be willing to follow Him?" "I certainly would," said the stranger without hesitation. "All right then," said the preacher, "let’s take the first step. He did no sin. Can you claim that for yourself?"
The man looked confused and somewhat surprised. "Why, no," he said. "I acknowledge that I do sin." Stearns replied, "Then your greatest need is to have a Savior, not an example!"