The Good News - Home
O Foolish Galatians!
By David A. DePra
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received you the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh? (Gal 3:1-3)
According to the apostle Paul, the Galatians had, "Deserted him that called them into the grace of Christ -- unto another gospel." (Gal 1:6) Because of this, "Christ had become of no effect unto them, because they were trying to be justified by the law. They had fallen from grace." (Gal 5:4) What had these people done? What exactly was the error of the Galatians?
There are several places in the epistle to the Galatians where Paul clearly states their error. In Galatians 3:3 we have one of those places. Paul states it as a rhetorical question. He asks, "Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?" Or, to put it in statement form, Paul is saying, "You know you were born again in the Spirit of God – you were saved by grace through faith. But NOW you think that Christian maturity can be achieved by the efforts of the flesh. This is your great error."
The phrase, "made perfect," in Gal. 3:3 uses a word that is used often in the NT. The word translated, "perfect," doesn’t mean PERFECT – as we use the word today. The word really means, "complete, finished, mature." This word denotes a bringing into completion or maturity. Thus, Paul is addressing the fact that the Galatian church was trying to complete themselves spiritually, even though they knew they had been saved solely, "by grace through faith."
So what we need to see here is that Paul is not directly addressing the way in which we are saved. No. He is addressing an error having to do with being made complete or mature – AFTER we are saved. This is about the Christian life, and how to live it. It is about spiritual growth and how to achieve it. The Galatian church thought that even though they had received the Holy Spirit solely by faith, that they needed to finish the purpose for which they were saved by the efforts of the flesh.
This error comes in many forms today. Most Christians today don’t believe that they must earn their salvation. Most know that we are not saved by works. But many Christians do think that once we are saved, "by grace through faith," that it is up to us to MAINTAIN our salvation by works. We may not put it in words, and we might not even realize what we are doing. We many not think this is our attempt to, "be made complete through the flesh." But that’s what it is.
There are other ways to practice the error of the Galatians. Some don’t call their efforts of the flesh, "maintaining salvation." They don’t think they are trying to, "be made complete," through the efforts of the flesh. Instead, many call it, "earning a bigger reward in heaven." Others do good works to maintain God’s GRACE. They strive to keep God happy with them, or do good works to try to avoid His supposed wrath.
But Paul corrects the Galatians with a rhetorical question for a reason. He says, "You received the Spirit by the hearing of faith. Now why do you think you can finish what the Holy Spirit wants to do in you through the efforts of the flesh? Why, having been saved by grace through faith, do you think that God’s purposes in the Christian life is on some OTHER basis – that of your works?
Here we see a great Truth – it is wrapped up in Paul’s questions to them. That Truth is this: The Christian life is not lived upon another basis – it is lived on the SAME basis as the one by which we received Christ. We have received Christ, "by grace through faith." And this is the basis upon which we are to LIVE, and upon which God will COMPLETE us as to His purpose.
There is a good reason why this must be so. And that reason isn’t simply that God sat down one day and arbitrarily decided to make it work that way. No. The reason that salvation and the Christian life are upon the same basis is that Christianity is NOT a religion. Rather, Christianity is CHRIST IN US. HE is the basis. In short, the salvation is Christ received. The Christian life is Christ being experienced in an on-going fashion.
Christianity is a ONENESS with Jesus Christ. Christ is IN US – one with our spirit. So what Paul is saying to them is this, "When you received Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, you were made one with God in your spirit. The Christian life, and all of God purposes that He intends to complete in you, are the result of you coming to know and experience that SAME Christ. The means of your Christian maturity is NOT something other than Christ – is NOT your works. No. The means of Christian growth is Jesus Himself."
Now, we MUST be clear about the importance of this epistle to the Galatians. Paul is telling us that to be saved, "by grace through faith," but yet try to finish the purposes of God in the Christian life, "by the flesh" – Paul is calling that ANOTHER GOSPEL. He is saying that Christ is of NO EFFECT to us if we trying to complete BY WORKS what God has begun by GRACE. He is saying that we have FALLEN from grace if we buy into such error. Does that sound serious to you? It is terribly serious.
Created in Christ Jesus
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10)
If we look at the progression described in this passage from Ephesus, and compare it to what Paul is teaching the Galatians, we see the same Truth. Paul says to the Ephesians that we are, "saved by grace through faith." He then states that BECAUSE of that – that BECAUSE we are, "saved by grace through faith," that we have been, "created in Christ Jesus." Can we see that we do NO WORKS to be created in Christ Jesus? Of course not. To be, "created in Christ Jesus," is salvation – which is solely, "by grace through faith." Our identity, at that point, is IN CHRIST. We do NO WORKS to achieve this.
But you will note that being, "created in Christ Jesus," has RESULTS. Paul says we are God’s workmanship, "created in Christ Jesus UNTO good works." Sure. If you are in Christ, you will do good works – you will WANT to do them.
So from Ephesians, we have this: Salvation is BY grace --- THROUGH faith --- created in Christ Jesus --- UNTO good works.
What we see here is that good works are the OUTCOME of salvation. Absolutely. Good works are never the MEANS of salvation. Indeed, all obedience in the Christian life is supposed to be the OUTCOME of being rightly related to God by faith. Obedience is never the MEANS of making myself rightly related to God by faith. Failure to see this distinction is behind much of the error of legalism.
If we take Paul’s words to the Galatians and plug them into his words to the Ephesians, we see where the Galatians were failing the Truth. As noted, Paul taught the Ephesians that we are saved by grace, through faith, and that this creates us in Christ Jesus UNTO good works. The Galatians had the part after salvation backwards. Instead of realizing that they were created in Christ Jesus UNTO good works, they were trying to create themselves in Christ by the MEANS of their good works.
How often this error is repeated today! Christians by the thousands, who know they have been saved by grace through faith walk UNDER THE LAW – any law, including ones created by themselves, or for them by others – thinking that this is the MEANS by which they will complete the purposes of God in their lives. Or we think that in order to stay in God’s will, purpose, and grace, that we need to do the works that will complete the job! This is lie, and it is another gospel. It was in Paul’s day, and it is in ours.
The Galatians knew that they were saved by grace through faith. But instead of realizing that this created them in Christ Jesus UNTO good works, they were essentially trying to complete themselves in Christ Jesus BY good works. Paul ask, "Having received the Spirit by faith, are you not made complete by the flesh? – by your works?"
What is Christianity?
Christianity is CHRIST IN US, the hope of glory. (see Col. 1:27) Once we get this Truth straight, and realize what it means to have Christ in us, everything else lines up. The errors fall away, and the Truth is solidified.
Sometimes it helps to see the Truth by seeing what the Truth is NOT. Can we see that if Christianity is CHRIST IN US that Christianity is NOT a religion? Religions are belief systems equipped with laws – with rewards and punishments attached. This is the Christianity of many people, but not the one of the Bible. The Christianity of the Bible is the result of a PERSON – of Jesus Christ – coming to dwell in us, "by grace through faith." Everything else that belongs to Christianity EMERGES from Christ in us – including good works. Nothing can happen that is of God UNLESS Christ is in us.
We see this Truth of Christ in us a bit more clear when we realize that to have Christ in us we must be born again FROM ABOVE. How does that phrase, "born again from above," strike you? Perhaps it has a greater impact upon you if you compare it to the phrase, "born from below." Jesus said, "I am from above, but you are from below." Every one of us has been born FROM Adam – born from below. Only through the death of the old, and by being raised in Christ to newness of life, are we born again FROM ABOVE. And at that point we are new creations – indeed, we might say we are DIFFERENT creatures than those born from below. We have a new and different kind of life than the life with which we entered into this natural world.
A Christian is not merely a person who has adopted a new religion centered around Christ. So often you hear the definition of Christianity as, "following the teachings of Jesus Christ." Wrong. Christianity is Christ in us – Christianity is to a matter of being born again FROM ABOVE, and being given a life that does not originate with any man. You will follow the teachings of Jesus. But again – this is because you are FIRST created IN Christ Jesus. You become a new creature, and because you become that, you obey God.
You can practically hear the apostle Paul pleading with the Galatians because they had forgotten the definition of Christianity. They were now trying to become complete, finished, and mature through their own works. In reaction, Paul exclaims, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you!" (Gal 4:19) He is saying, "I am in pain until you return to an inner consciousness of the Person of Christ, and are set free by knowing Him."
I’ve never met a legalist that knew they WERE ONE. When I was a legalist, I didn’t think I was one. No. I thought I was HOLY. I thought I had high standards, and was one of the, "chosen few," who REALLY obeyed God. I thought that I was keeping God happy with me, and that the reason I was experiencing His favor and blessing was directly attributable to MY good works. I would have never said any of this, mind you, but it was what I believed, and it motivated me.
As we have seen, all obedience and good works in the Christian life are supposed to be the outcome of being rightly related to God by faith. In short, we are supposed to obey God because we love Him and believe Him. But there is a subtle way of obeying God, not because you believe Him, but because you DON’T. What I mean is that instead of my works being the OUTCOME of faith, my works could be the outcome of unbelief. I could obey God because I DON’T think He will love me otherwise, and I could obey God because I DON’T think His grace will be there for me otherwise. This is legalism, and there are a thousand ways to practice it.
If there is one thing we need to see about legalism, it is that the works I do are not at issue. They may BE good works – and Christians will do good works! But the problem with legalism is that it is a failure of FAITH. Or even the absence of faith. If I am a legalist it is a given that I do good works. The error is that I am trying to USE my good works to establish myself before God – instead of realizing that I am already created, and stand in, Christ Jesus, by faith alone.
We must see that this is an INWARD faith matter. The good works of a legalist will look just AS good as the good works of those walking in faith. But the relationship that each has with God is not the same. One has fallen from grace. The other is walking in Christ.
This is why it is accurate to say that legalism is FAITH IN MY WORKS. Sure. I believe that what I do is what establishes me before God. But unwittingly, I am really saying that Christ, and His finished work, is not enough – indeed, if I realized it, I am saying Christ died in vain. For as Paul declared:
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Gal 2:21)
Most legalists would never say that they have their faith in their works. They would never say that they are trying to keep right with God, and become righteous, through their own works. In fact, I think the people who object most to being called legalists are legalists. And yet the question comes back to, "Where is our faith?" Is it in our works? In our spiritual assets? Or is our faith in Christ?
There are really two kinds of legalists. The first kind is the Pharisee. These folks try to keep right with God through their works, and actually think they are succeeding. They tend to be spiritually arrogant, judgmental, and often have a kind of cult mentality about them. They feel THEY are the chosen ones of God, and that their church is the only one REALLY obeying God. They not only point to their supposed good works as a credential before God, but often point to other assets, such as Bible knowledge, teaching ability, and perhaps even some sort of calling they feel God has upon their life. Some of these things are subtle, and may not sound like LAWS to obey to achieve righteousness, but they are. Anytime I use ANYTHING about myself as a credential before God, I am putting my faith, not in Christ, but in me – whether it be in my works, or in my character, or in my service for God.
The Pharisee mentality is possible in any of us. If we don’t put faith in our works, then we might put faith in our faith. We might think we have great faith in God, and that this commends us to Him. Likewise, we might put faith in the fact that we have, "suffered for the Lord." We think we are a big, "martyr." Or we might put faith in our serving God, or in our accomplishments. Many become prideful and even stray from the Truth simply because they have built up a big church. Or because people look to them for spiritual guidance. Any time I take pride in anything I have done, "for God," I am putting faith in IT – and then IT has become an enemy of faith in Christ alone.
That is one kind of legalist – the Pharisee. They put faith in their works, and that faith is satisfied. But the other kind of legalist is not so successful. They put faith in their works, but are forever feeling condemned and like a failure. These are folks who are not deluded, as is the Pharisee, into thinking their works commend them to God. But unfortunately, because they know their works are insufficient, they believe their works CONDEMN them before God – as Christians.
We might call these people, "the downtrodden." They are always trying to do good works to stay in God’s grace, but unlike the Pharisee, failing to measure up. Sure, they know they cannot do works that are GOOD ENOUGH. But instead of allowing that fact to lead them to the Cross, they just keep trying harder, and keep falling harder.
Can we see that BOTH of these kinds of legalists are guilty of the SAME error? Both put faith in their works. Both are seeking the same thing – to be completed through the efforts of the flesh? The Pharisee thinks they have succeeded. The downtrodden think they have failed. But both have fallen from grace and are under another gospel.
What is the solution? To get BETTER at obeying God? To find BETTER works? No. The ONLY solution is to be brought to the place of TOTAL FAILURE. Only then will that person realize their true condition before God. And only then will they really be able to understand the grace of God, and why it is only by grace that we are in Christ.
Now, you might, at this point, be saying, "Well, I realize the Pharisee needs to see he is a total failure. But don’t the downtrodden already see this?" No. They don’t. For if they did see it, they would not be under continual condemnation and defeat. And they certainly would not continue TRYING – they would STOP and turn to Christ for grace.
You see, I am not here talking about seeing theology. Most Christians know the doctrines of grace, and of justification by faith. Good. We need to know them because those doctrines tell the Truth about God. But how many of us really and truly come INTO those Truths? Do we realize what it means to be brought to the place where we are totally convinced that there is NOTHING about ourselves that we can present to God? And that this is GOOD NEWS?
Knowing a Bible doctrine does not necessarily equal knowing Jesus Christ. But knowing Jesus Christ will always prove the Bible doctrine as the Truth. The one thing that knowing Jesus Christ will do, that merely knowing a doctrine can never do, is that knowing Jesus Christ will MAKE ME TRUE. The Truth sets me free and adjusts me to the Truth of God in Christ Jesus.
Legalism attempts to keep us right with God through our own works, and because of that, it is faith in our own works. Such an effort PROVES that we still think our works will do the job, and PROVES that we have NOT seen the Truth of our own condition, nor the Truth of Jesus Christ. The only solution is to be shown as naked and bankrupt – which is about the last thing a legalist wants. But God can get us there.
Paul said to the Galatians, "Received you the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?" If you read this passage, it is clear that trying to be made complete, "by the flesh," is the same thing as trying to keep the Spirit by, "the works of the law." You cannot miss that conclusion. Thus, Paul is saying that if I try to keep myself in Christ through good works, that I am doing this BY THE FLESH.
This should not be a shock, but I’m not sure I have heard much preaching that explains this. So often when we think about legalism, we think it is merely, "Christianity with a little too much law." Paul calls it, "another gospel." Or we think that trying to keep ourselves in Christ through works is just, "another way," that the Holy Spirit works. But no. Paul is telling us in no uncertain terms that to try to maintain the Spirit, or to try to make ourselves complete by works, is a work OF THE FLESH. It is NEVER of the Holy Spirit.
Sure. The Holy Spirit is in ONLY the Truth. Legalism is NOT the Truth. The Holy Spirit’s work is to take all that Jesus is, and all He has done, and reveal this TO us, IN us, and THROUGH us. Well, legalism is not Christ in us. So the Holy Spirit isn’t DOING legalism. Rather, the Spirit is OPPOSED to it. Legalism is of the flesh – howbeit RELIGIOUS FLESH.
So the question becomes – why is legalism of the flesh? Why is Paul able to say that? And how is this so?
To answer, we need only go back a few verses before the beginning of chapter 3. Paul gives a wonderful description of Christianity:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
This is TRUE Christianity. But note: Even if we don’t quite understand HOW Christ lives in us, can we see that it certainly isn’t US – OUR flesh – living the Christian life? Nope. It isn’t US – this isn’t talking about US doing our works. This isn’t talking about doing works to complete ourselves, nor is it talking about us doing anything at all to commend ourselves to God.
What this IS talking about is the RESULTS of being created in Christ Jesus. It IS talking about the OUTCOME of be ONE in spirit with God through Christ. Again – works are the RESULTS, not the MEANS. And now we are seeing that even those RESULTS aren’t merely US doing whatever we think is the will of God. The RESULTS are Christ living in and through us.
This is much different than doing good works to TRY to accomplish what is already finished in Christ. The Holy Spirit cannot be in THAT. It is not of faith. It is not the RESULT of being one with Christ. Rather, it is ME – in unbelief – trying to do what is already done. It is ME – in unbelief – walking in a way that is contrary to the Truth.
That is why it is of the FLESH. It really is just ME mechanically obeying some law that I think I must obey to complete myself, earn a reward, avoid a punishment, maintain grace, and make God favor me. Instead of having all of that settled forever, once for all, in Christ – resulting in good works – I am trying to settle it THROUGH works.
But what does the Bible mean by the term, "the flesh?" Well, the flesh is the SELF. It is really the summation of everything man is IN ADAM. Man in Adam doesn’t have God in him. So all he has is SELF. And that is the flesh.
Now, the flesh is not a neutral thing. It is captive to the realm of darkness. But even without that, by virtue of the fact that man doesn’t have God in him through natural birth, the flesh is DEAD. There is no life or Truth in the flesh because there is no GOD in the flesh of man.
The SELF of man governs all of him – without Christ. We see life through SELF. We think through SELF. We feel through SELF. And because it is all we know to do, we think it is normal. We think that doing so is all there is. But we are completely blind to the Truth.
Worst of all, even Christians, even though we are not IN the flesh, can nevertheless continue to walk according to the flesh. We can see God through SELF – we can think that His universe revolves around US, instead of around Christ. We can be totally governed by natural thinking, emotions, fears, and perhaps worst of all – SELF-righteousness.
Well, there you have it: SELF-righteousness. THAT is the flesh – that is religious flesh doing for SELF. When I seek to make my SELF righteous through works, this is nothing more than that same SELF – that nature that is in all of us – trying to do for SELF what only Christ can do. This is why trying to keep righteous by works is the flesh. It is nothing more than SELF dressed up in a religious garb, pretending, howbeit unconsciously, to be Christ in us.
I have known legalistic people who will swear up and down that the works they do are really Christ living through them. And yet they are so afraid of making a misstep because they believe some terrible curse will come upon them – they are afraid they will lose a reward or incur the wrath of God. They cannot bear the possibility that they might have NOTHING in themselves to offer God. But they think this is of the Holy Spirit. They think their, "fear of failure," is holiness and a desire for God. It is not. It is unbelief. They obey God, not because they believe, and not because they love God, but they obey Him because they are afraid of Him. In short, their good works are not OF faith, but OF unbelief. And really, that means they really aren’t good works at all. Not as God defines them.
Legalism is OF THE FLESH because anytime I try to do for SELF what only Christ can do, it is that same SELF that is in charge. This is not Christ living through me, but it is SELF trying to act like Christ – so that I can feel self-righteous.
Paul’s description of Christianity in Galatians 2:20 is not a description of HIM trying to live LIKE Christ, and then saying it IS Christ. This is not Paul describing how to obey a list of rules or laws and saying that it is Christ that is REALLY doing it. No. Paul meant exactly what he said. He said that he DIED when he received Christ, but nevertheless he lives – yet not JUST him – but Christ lives in him. This speaks of a total union between himself and Christ. The oneness was so real, and Christ so much Paul’s personal LORD, that Paul could say that Christ lives through him.
Christ Living Through Us
You almost never near anything taught today about Christ living through us. Not unless it is the wrong idea of that – as mentioned – where people just try to live the Christian life and say it is Christ really doing it through them. Most Christians either say that, or they turn Galatians 2:20 into something less than Paul means – they say that we are supposed to live LIKE Jesus, or be made LIKE Jesus. But this isn’t what Paul says in Galatians 2:20. He never says he has been made LIKE Jesus, or lives LIKE Jesus. Rather, Paul says Christ lives THROUGH him.
Actually the entire passage is so utterly unlike the Christianity you and I have been taught that it is amazing that we miss the difference. Note that Paul says, "I have been crucified WITH Christ." Paul knew, believed, and taught, that Christ had been crucified FOR him, as his substitute. But Paul is getting at a deeper Truth here. He is saying that because Christ was crucified FOR us, that we are then able to be crucified WITH Christ.
Can we see how big a difference there is between Christ crucified FOR us – and ONLY that – can we see the big difference between that and US being crucified WITH Christ? If we read Romans 6, for example, we will see that Paul tells us that we have actually been PLANTED together with Christ in His death and resurrection. He tells us that we have been BURIED with Christ into HIS death. And Paul likewise tells us that this is THE REASON why we are now dead to sin and alive to God. The fact is, unless you are crucified WITH Christ, you have NO power over sin. Unless you have DIED in Christ, there can be no LIFE in Him.
Being crucified WITH Christ is the key to power over sin, and the key to understanding that it is finished – not only legally, but REALLY. Salvation is not merely a new legal classification. It is more. It is the death of our old life, and a matter of being born again FROM ABOVE.
Paul says, "I am crucified WITH Christ, nevertheless I live." In other words, being crucified with Christ doesn’t kill us – it simply transfers our spirit from Adam to Christ through death and resurrection. As such, the power of Adam is broken over us, and we come into oneness with Christ. And that is why we nevertheless LIVE. But note that Paul adds, "Yet not I, but Christ lives in me." In other words, Paul is now ONE with Christ through this death and resurrection. There is no more SELF in charge.
Christ living through me is NOT a matter of me finding the best METHOD or religious pattern. This is not about me DOING things, "the right way." Sure, Christ is going to live a holy life of obedience through me. But again – by my works I cannot MAKE this happen. I cannot create myself in Christ Jesus through works. Rather, this is Christ making it happen through me. This is, as Paul says, "the life I now live, I live by the faith OF the Son of God." It is not even about MY faith.
So what does it mean for Christ to live IN and THROUGH us? We have already seen that this does NOT mean that we try to live LIKE Christ. No. This is not about imitating Jesus. That would be impossible anyways, and frankly, if we try to live LIKE Christ, we are going to end up walking in some form of legalism. For what will we do once we find out we can’t live like Christ? Well, we’ll probably try harder – if we think that living LIKE Christ is the command of God upon us. But how does Christ live IN and THROUGH us?
In addition, Christ doesn’t live through us by bypassing US. So even though this isn’t a matter of us living LIKE Christ, and then trying to call it, "Christ living through me," it is nevertheless a fact that Christ doesn’t, "take us over," and live through us to the disregard of our wills. Thus, it becomes clear that for Christ to live through me must mean that I am moving in concert with Him. But it isn’t ME doing it. It is Christ doing it – Paul says it is Christ living through him.
The first place we need to turn to find some clarity on this matter is II Corinthians 4:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:7-12)
Paul is saying that Jesus Christ is manifested through us – not by adopting principles, keeping laws, or acting like Jesus – but by US dying. In other words, if we want Christ seen through us, whatever there is about us that is hindering this must die. His words are clear: "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, THAT the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." In order for Christ to live through you, YOU must be brought to an end.
But what is this, "you," that Paul says must die? Well, your will, of course. But just as importantly, your SELF-righteousness. Actually, we might be surprised at just how much our self-righteousness and unbroken wills go together. These must be exposed, dealt with, and we must be set free. THEN we can live in harmony with Christ.
People say they want Christ to live through them. But the price of this is that everything that is contrary to Christ must go the way of the Cross. If Christ is going to live through you, and be seen in you, then YOU must LOSE YOUR LIFE – you must lose the right to decide what you do, who you are, and what you will become. All of that must die into the hands of Jesus. Then you will find your life IN HIM.
If we think this is just theology, we are going to be in for a shock. We are seeing, once again, that the only way to enter into a living relationship with God is to be brought to NOTHING. Why? Because we ARE nothing – in Adam we are worse. And God is everything. What is so terrible about being brought to the place where we are NOTHING except recipients of His grace and love.
What Paul is describing in II Cor. 4 is a spiritual condition made possible ONLY by the Cross. You have to be brought to the absolute END of your own righteousness. I’m talking about actually being brought to that end – really. And then I’m talking about a oneness with Christ that is able to govern you.
But again – this is not about figuring out doctrine and trying to live it. It is not about coming under some method, law, or principle. No, for just as Paul said to the Galatians, "You received the Spirit by faith, are you now going to be made complete by the works of the flesh?" The point is, everything I have described, if it to be real, must be a product of full surrender to God, and the outcome of a union with Him. And THAT cannot happen in a real way until I lose my life for His sake. This is about FAITH and coming to know Jesus Christ.
Being Found in Christ
Coming to the end of my own righteousness is not easy. But unless I do, I am not going to get far in Christ. In fact, Paul makes coming to this place CENTRAL to everything else. Read his words to the Philippians:
I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:8-11)
Read that again and note that Paul’s statement, "not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith," is central to everything. It is HOW you, "win Christ," and are, "found in Him." And it RESULTS in, "that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings." All of these things tie directly into this matter of righteousness in Christ by faith.
Paul says, "I have counted everything about myself that I might use to keep myself righteous as LOST. I surrender ALL of my righteousness to God. Why? Because through this surrender I WIN CHRIST – I win Him by losing ME. I find HIS life by losing mine. If I lose everything about myself that I thought was righteous, I will WIN Christ, and I will be FOUND in Him."
Note that to be FOUND in Christ you have to lose your own righteousness. In other words, you have to lose who you think you are in God’s eyes in order to be FOUND IN CHRIST. You have to give up the right to decide WHO YOU ARE. That might seem strange to some people. But so much of who we THINK we are, as Christians, is usually based on self-righteousness. That is really true, even if it is a frustrated self-righteousness. But we have to lose all of that to be found in Christ.
The next phrase tells us why this is necessary. Paul says, "I have to lose my own righteousness, because to be found in Christ equals NOT having a righteousness of my own, but only HIS." Do you see that? We have to lose our righteousness to be found IN HIS. Paul says, "I have been found IN HIM, not having a righteousness of my own, but that which is by the faith of Christ." You cannot have your righteousness, based on works, and HIS – at the same time. It is one or the other.
Paul then goes on to tell about the RESULTS of being found in Christ. He says, "That I may win Christ, and be found in him – HOW? – "not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." And the RESULTS? "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings." Can we see how coming to the end of my righteousness, and entering in HIS, is central to everything? It is central to all Paul is describing – just as it is central to getting to where Christ lives through us.
So how do we get to where Christ can live through us? We are seeing that this is not the outcome of a method, or religion, or of the works of the law. Indeed, we are finding out that those kinds of things must be put aside all together. Rather, Christ lives through us if we surrender to the Cross God brings. THEN what happens is not contrived, not programmed, and not religious. What happens is LIVING and spontaneous. Because I have come under the power of the Cross, the power of the resurrection can flow THROUGH me. Because I have given up MY righteousness, I don’t get in the way with it when Christ lives through me.
Christianity is NOT a religion to follow. People who think they can dig into the Bible and figure out all the principles to live by, and then create laws to put people under – they are doing exactly what Paul said the Galatians were doing – trying to make themselves complete by works. By the flesh – through their own effort. Instead, we are to come into fellowship with the living Christ. Do that, and good works will emerge. But this will not be you doing good works to keep yourself righteous. It will be Righteousness Himself living through you.
Now, if all of this seems unreachable, then you ARE beginning to grasp the Truth. For we are talking about the miracle of being born again FROM ABOVE. We are talking about the new creation in Christ. This is something GOD does if we will open to Him, and stay open. It cannot be put down on paper as a formula. It is Christ in us.
Christ in us cannot be improved upon through the works of the flesh. But if we yield to the Cross, Christ can be released in and through us by the Spirit. The Cross will bring us to the end of our own righteousness. But then we will be found in Him, not having a righteousness of our own, based upon works, but instead, HIS righteousness. This is the gospel.
The Good News - Home