For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:19-21 NIV)
The reality of human organ transplants still amazes me. Although they take place every day, I never cease to be overwhelmed at the thought doctors can take a part of someone’s body and put it in another body, and make it work.
Although I am not an expert in the transplant process, I have often thought about the finality of removing a diseased organ to make way for a new one…especially a life-sustaining organ such as a heart. At the exchange, the person receiving the transplant has passed the point of no return. His old heart is gone, and his very life depends on the new one.
In today’s passage Paul is describing a similar situation. When we die to our old person of sin and put on Jesus, we are dependent on His grace thereafter. However, I should add it would be a mistake to merely see this as a spiritual parallel. Since Jesus is also the Lord of the resurrection, the transformation He brings about in our lives is also a physical one. Our earthly body is still sustaining us, but as it wears out, it groans for the new eternal body we have been promised.
This means, for the follower of Jesus, there truly is no turning back. Once we have put on grace, we are dead without it. In fact, we were dead before it.
In Paul’s case, he was dead under the Law. But in Christ, he became justified through the blood that poured from Calvary, and therefore was restored to life.
Had it been possible to have been made alive by keeping the Law, Jesus would not have needed to die. His death would have been senseless. I believe Paul is appealing to the Jewish-Christian mind here as believers were conflicted over their adherence to the Law and their acceptance of grace. There simply was no middle ground. To be alive in Christ was to be dead to the Law. To strive for justification under the Law was to diminish Christ.
It occurs to me, we sometimes fail to consider the implications of our spiritual positions. But as we say, “when you put it like that”, we see the flaws in our thinking. For example, I have heard believers in Jesus say, “What’s most important is that we fight for mercy and justice in our world. Whether or not we need Jesus to be saved is secondary.” Really? I am all for mercy and justice, but can the gospel be reduced to a social cause? Can we survive without the transforming, saving grace of Jesus? And if we can, then did Christ die for nothing?
Yup. That’s what that means. If we don’t need Jesus for sin salvation, then He didn’t need to die. And “when you put it like that”, we know there is no straddling the fence.
Dear God, teach me to think through my spiritual ideas. In Jesus’ name, Amen.