The Mystery of Redemption in Christ
There is a perverted gospel being preached across the religious world. It is an “accursed” gospel, a watered down gospel, a New Age gospel, and a multitude of people are being deceived. Identifying every aspect of this perversion is absolutely impossible, but we can establish the unfailing truth of what constitutes the “Saving Gospel.” There are perversions on the right and perversions on the left. There are liberals that have watered down the message and legalists that have added their own agenda. There are those who teach a faith that glorifies the flesh and its appetites and others who teach a faith that mutilates the flesh and leaves nothing but bondage. Both extremes are dangerous, destructive, and dark. There is still a “Glorious Gospel” that transforms from darkness to light and from death to resurrection. That Gospel lives in the Book of Galatians.
The golden text of Paul’s letter to the Galatians is found in these words, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth 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.” (Galatians 2:20). Sometimes the best way to study a truth in the Scriptures is to look at the striking results of that truth. This golden text places the emphasis of the Gospel at the heart of the matter and that is a transformed life. The Gospel of its own supernatural power is the one and only plan that God has ordained to save sinners. When you subtract from the Gospel, the supernatural powers disappear; and when you add to the Gospel, it produces a flesh-centered religion that robs the glory from God. Both extremes kill!
Paul’s Living Testimony: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me …” is breathtaking. The flesh-centered religions of our day cannot withstand the light of this statement. The “Name It, Claim It” deceptions of the “Word of Faith” crowd are reviled as New Age jargon in light of such a testimony. Those that preach a “works gospel” have no standing in Galatians. You cannot earn this kind of a transformed experience. Obeying every commandment cannot produce “I am crucified with Christ.” But, “I am crucified with Christ” cannot live a careless life of willful sin and transgression. This testimony forever destroys both extremes.
The “Works-Centered Gospel”
Man’s living testimony will always manifest the kind of gospel he believes. A perverted gospel will produce perverted believers. A works-centered message will produce crippled people that live in a devastating bondage to their own struggles. There is no lasting victory in the flesh’s effort to keep the laws of righteousness. The prayer life of those in a works-centered faith is paralyzed by the helplessness of flesh. Most of these dear people are constantly backsliding because of the pull of the appetites of the flesh. They struggle and struggle because their hearts yearn for purity, but try as they may; the flesh-produced purity has no lasting satisfaction.
There are many different expressions of the “works-centered gospel.” The “Jesus only” sect demand “water baptism” and “speaking in tongues” before one can be assured of salvation. Coupled with the above is a rigid separation from the world, all of which must occur before salvation is assured. Of all my acquaintances among these dear people, “the bondage and fear by which they live is heartbreaking.” They are warned that if they leave this narrow group, judgment will quickly follow. Those who leave are usually crippled beyond any hope of recovery. Others, who rebel against this bondage within their ranks, become hard and almost unreachable for the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ and its transforming powers. “Legalism” is a devastating power against the human spirit.
There are many forms of “works-centered” religion. Promise Keepers has prospered right in the midst of the liberal church world; yet, it is sheer legalism.
The promises connected to Promise Keepers are nothing but hybrid works being produced by the psychological schemes of hyper driven rallies and small group therapy. The very need of such schemes to produce the desired results makes the churches connected suspect. Something is wrong when righteousness and godly manhood is not the normal result in a supposed Bible-believing church. Paul, the Apostle, would have driven this crowd out of the New Testament church. He would have said, “O foolish Galatians (religionists), 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 ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1-3).
In this crazy day we have more and more of the works-centered deception, mixed with the liberal lifestyle of worldliness and compromise. While the liberals decry the legalists, they are resorting to legalism to try and save their liberalism. A liberal approach to Scripture literally robs the church of its spiritual life and then in desperation the same crowd must resort to some kind of superficial commitment to get the dedication needed to keep the ship afloat. Crazy world! Please remember that any form of legalism in maintaining the Christian faith cannot produce spiritual life. A works-centered faith is going to produce troubled people without stability and heartfelt joy that must be constantly propped up.
The Intellectual Gospel
I call the opposite of the “works-centered gospel” the “intellectual gospel” because it is mostly “head stuff” without a heart. The liberals have so reacted to legalism that what they have produced is even worse. The church world is loaded with professing believers that live so loosely that they are a reproof to the Gospel. The dress, conduct, conversation, and general demeanor of those who reject the Biblical lifestyle are bankrupt and actually pagan. Everything that Hollywood produces has infiltrated the church world in the name of rejecting legalism. A head faith that does not produce a heart and life change is certainly not what the Apostle Paul was championing.
“Rejecting legalism” has become a rallying cry among a large part of today’s church. It is clearly evident that this whole scheme is a reaction against “works-centered” groups. Biblical truth can never remain pure when its foundation is built on reaction instead of the pure Gospel. Hindus dress like Hindus. Muslims dress like Muslims. Rock music worshippers conduct themselves in the vein of the rock music world. Why do Christians not find it normal to dress and live according to Bible standards? Liberalism has made the large part of today’s church feel completely rejected if they follow heartfelt, Bible declaring holiness.
Liberalism has progressed to the point that double married men can pastor churches, serve on deacon and elder boards, and snub their nose at the Biblical standards for church leadership. There are many churches that have adopted a “no questions” policy towards lesbians and homosexuals. From the beginning, when the holiness lifestyle was being rejected, the die was cast for the present compromise. Unbiblical living can end in only one of two ways: repentance and a return to the Bible or complete apostasy.
I Am Crucified With Christ
This statement is the Biblical balance between the two crazy worlds of “works-centered gospel” vs. the “intellectual gospel.” Both extremes are dead wrong. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of grace. Absolutely no human merit or faithfulness to live by Biblical standards can redeem one soul. The moment a godly life ceases to be “grace in its totality” the individual falls from grace. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16). Apostle Paul was so clear in preaching this Gospel of grace that he added these awesome words by the Holy Ghost. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)
The believer must never allow the saintly life that has been effected in them by the Gospel to ever diminish the grace that produced that life. The very moment that our righteousness is in any way the work of flesh, it ceases to be His righteousness and becomes as a filthy rag. My entire forty-eight years of Christian living has been spent among holiness people. I have witnessed an incredible number among our ranks that have all of the outside trappings of saintliness, but are characterized by hard faces, condemning attitudes, and mean spirits. The negative results of these lives are bad enough, but worse still is Apostle Paul’s clear warning that they are fallen from grace.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me …”
What a statement! Being crucified suggests death, but Apostle Paul quickly adds, “… nevertheless I live …” We are talking about supernatural life that arises out of a “Gospel induced death.” When the “Glorious Gospel” is received in the repentant heart of a sinner, the result is death to sin and the flesh, but life to the soul and spirit. The very moment “we die to the old self,” as the words, “I am crucified with Christ,” suggests; we actually “come alive in Jesus Christ.” It is the Biblical paradox that one must die to truly live.
Apostle Paul continues, ” … yet not I, but Christ liveth in me …” The Lord Jesus Christ is in residence by His Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. A born again Christian is not just dead to sin and alive to God, but the Holy Ghost has come to abide within the human spirit. Such a life cannot be less than dynamic and overwhelming. It is what the old-fashioned revivals were all about. The bars closed down and the drunks went home to their families. Prostitutes became saints and marriages were restored. Young people left off their carousing and started living consecrated lives. The theaters were forsaken and immodest dress gladly repulsed, because the people had died to the old life that they might live to the new life. Anyone who calls that “legalism” has forsaken the truth and become an apostate.
The religious world has become militant against any form of godliness. Religious radio and television are constantly on the attack against Biblical teachings of separated living. They appear to believe that their primary enemy is holiness instead of the devil. It is exactly what we should expect in these days of apostasy. Apostasy means to reject the elements of Biblical faith that cause reproach. An apostate person claims the same faith, but rejects all within that faith that makes them different from the world. It is a form of religion that denies the power thereof. (2 Timothy 3:5)
“… and the life which I now live in the flesh …”
Apostle Paul never failed to say it plain. The Holy Ghost inspired every word. The Christian life must be lived in the “flesh.” Our flesh is our present place of captivity. It is a place of contrast where the flesh has many appetites, but yet the God-given spirit must dwell. In the sinner the spirit is dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), but the “Glorious Gospel” has come to revive the spirit. Yet, sin must be dealt with before the spirit can be renewed. The appetites of the spirit are just as real as the appetites of the flesh. The “Glorious Gospel” has been effected by the death of the Son of God.
This new life in the spirit must be lived in the flesh. Read again, “”… 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.” The life which I now live in the flesh is the born again life. The flesh has been put to death by the death that Jesus experienced. Either the sinner is “dead to sin” or the death of Jesus was a horrible mistake. He either died to transform the lost into the family of the saints or the Gospel is not “glorious” after all.
The new life is lived in the flesh without the control of the “sin nature.” That nature is still real, but broken and defeated by the new life, which the Holy Ghost has provided by Christ’s death. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth 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.” (Galatians 2:20)
Let’s review the entire verse carefully. It does not allow for the legalism of a “works gospel.” Neither does it allow for a liberalism of an “intellectual gospel.” Both extremes are revealed as enemies to the “Glorious Gospel.” “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Faith in nothing but Jesus Christ is now the daily joy of a delivered saint. Every victory is won by faith, every decision is made by faith, every step is guided by faith, because the crucified life is not flesh-induced, but Holy Ghost empowered. The forsaking of the world cannot be called legalism because nothing is done by some narrow bigoted decision, but in obedience to the leadership of the Spirit. The Word of God is “desired as a newborn babe” (1 Peter 2:2), because the Word is the sword of the Spirit.
The Lord Jesus proclaimed in His prayer for the saints, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17). Now, Apostle Paul shows the result of that prayer and the Gospel in his own life. To call Apostle Paul a legalist because of these holiness teachings would be blasphemy against the infallible Word of God.
The greatest message on the face of God’s earth is found in the “Glorious Gospel.” This message transforms every man and women that dares to turn their total life over to Him. It is the only life that has an undying hope. Nothing can rob this faith of its power and triumph. The enemies have badgered “truth” and at times in history “truth has fallen in the streets.” (Isaiah 59:14). But, truth is indestructible and it always resurrects to continue in triumph wherever the Word is preached and believed.
Every believer is responsible to share this Gospel. No one has the Biblical right to claim salvation unless they are dedicated to the Gospel and to help guarantee that every soul hears the Gospel message. How can a starving man find bread and not tell other starving men where he found the bread? We would utterly condemn someone so selfish. Yet, the church is full of thousands/millions who claim faith, but do not share it with others. No one can truly love the Gospel and not be overwhelmed with its message. It’s eternal life wrapped up in a pure, single truth. Surrender to the simple words, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh (human body) I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) For me! For even me! For only me if no one else wants it! I am alive in Jesus Christ!