Some statements from Paul in the New Testament make clear that his experience of faith far outstrips most of ours. But maybe these same statements can help us figure out why that's so.
"I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Um, seriously? What does that mean? How can that even be true? Here's how:
1. Our life of faith starts with this mantra, I've been crucified with Christ, so I no longer live but Christ lives in me.
2. Then we continue moment-by-moment with this same mantra. I've been crucified and now have Him living in me, making available to me His transformative power.
3. And then we challenge ourselves with this mantra to behave responsibly in the world. I've been crucified. I represent Jesus now.
4. And finally, using this mantra, we can cling to firm hope for our future. I'm actually going to come to completion. I am not yet perfect, but I will be because I started by grace, I continue by grace, I challenge myself by grace, and by God's power within me I am going to get where He wants me to go. I've been crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me!
Our main text was Galatians 2:11-21:
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
We also read Galatians 3:10-14:
10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
And Galatians 6:14:
14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
And Galatians 3:3:
3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
And Galatians 4:6:
6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
And Galatians 5:6:
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
And Galatians 5:5:
5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
And, finally, Galatians 6:15:
15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.