Dead to the Law; Alive to Jesus
by Jonathan Bailey
19 “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
The scripture above is the last words Paul spoke to Peter in regard to this rebuke. And he ends it with some fireworks. These 3 verses are all about identity. Paul is saying to Peter where is the one place you receive your supreme identity? Is it your Jewishness? Is it your Law? Or, is it the Messiah? I think it is safe to say that the Jews of that day were arrogant when it came to their election and privilege? Who can blame them? They have a rich history of being God’s chosen people. And so naturally their identity is in their fruitful history with God.
But Paul says, die to it. “On account of the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.” I think what he is saying is this, you cannot have a little Law and a little Messiah. You must claim that your old life is extinct and your new life is being animated by Jesus’ Spirit. Like Jesus was crucified so are we. Dallas Willard makes a great point on self-crucifixion, “Just because your crucified doesn’t mean your dead, yet. It just means you have been put out of control and now it is only a matter of time until you die. (loosely paraphrased).”
The longer and longer you and I are on the cross the more and more Jesus breaks through our bodies with His kingdom life.
Perhaps my favorite of the 3 verses is part B of 20, “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” There is a life to be lived here and now and it is inside my sinful body. The spiritual life is so bodily. One major reason people find the Jesus Way so difficult is because they have not been taught accurately about the centrality of the body in the spiritual life. The body should be transformed into Christlikeness (Romans 6.12-14). The evil needs to be ousted and the body used as tool of righteousness. My trust/faith in Jesus is housed inside my flesh. So, the way my trust/faith is manifested is in giving orders and commands to my body, for example:
1. Eyes read over and over Psalm 23.
2. Body get out of bed at 6 am so I can read the gospel of Mark.
3. Arms hug a rank homeless man.
4. Hand write a check to Gospel for Asia every month in order to sponsor a child.
5. Mouth meditate and mumble Proverbs 17:9,10.
So the point I am trying to make is that the life of Jesus is in my physical body and so we should take very seriously how we treat our body and what we do with our body.
Back to the scripture, why would I give up my old life and identity? Because Jesus gave up His. The end of verse 20 says, “Jesus loved us and gave up himself for us (par).” He is our pattern. He is our power. This is what he is asking us to do and this is what the power he gives us does. We are not alone. Jesus life inside of us will accomplish it.
And Paul ends his long rebuke to Peter with these final words: Nothing I have told you nullifies the grace of God, because if the righteousness that comes in Jesus life were able to come from the Law then Jesus death was pointless. I am not nullifying the grace of God; I am telling you how grace works!