Great Gospel Texts: Galatians 2:20

So, if you go to church, you’re pro-life, and you’re not for gay marriage, then you’re a Christian?” This question was launched at me at 2 a.m. one night at the Chelsea Hospital in Michigan. The questioner was being sincere. In response, I explained that being a Christian was vastly different than what he had described. However, I learned from this interaction that the term “Christian” has become covered in political debris and confused by the many voices of society. What is it to be a Christian? The Bible, with final authority, answers the question. If I were limited to one verse – only one out of the 31,102 in the Bible – it would be Galatians 2:20. It illuminates the darkness of our society, and in beautiful clarity, one can learn what it means to be a Christian.

Eight times in this verse we read “I” or “me”; while many Christians bond with a community of other believers, the identity of a Christian is deeply personal. From Galatians 2:20, we learn that a Christian is personally connected with the cross of Christ, channeling the life of Christ, and devoted through the love of Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ.”[1] One may expect, “I vote conservative” or “I go to church,” but “I have been crucified”? Why this? In the context of Galatians 2, Paul is outlining that the law of God condemned him. He was sentenced to death because he had failed to live according to God’s standard. And the same is true for us. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), and, “The soul who sins shall die” (Eze 18:20). But here, Paul states that the legal sentence which condemned him was not somehow dodged but was in actuality carried out. Paul was crucified with Christ. In glorious simplicity, we are learning that the Lord Jesus died not only for what I had done but for who I was as a sinner. And I have died under that legal penalty with Him on the cross.

The verse continues to show that a Christian is not only united with Christ in His death but also united in His resurrection. The Christian has been raised in “newness of life” (Rom 6:4). A new person is living; in fact, it is Christ Himself living through this new man or woman. That is what our verse says: “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.” This is what it is to be a Christian – someone who has died under the law’s sentence with Christ and is now raised in new life with Christ. The Christian now lives as a channel where Christ lives through them.

As Paul closes this verse, he states that this new life is not lived by works to try to earn God’s acceptance, but is rather lived in faith by one who has received God’s acceptance. I have been freely given acceptance, for I have been united with Christ. The “old person” I once was is dead and gone and a new person is here now, and it’s all because the very “Son of God … loved me and gave himself for me.” “What is a Christian?” Consider Galatians 2:20!

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the ESV.