Dr Myk Habets graciously loaned us this lesson on Galatians 2, and Christ’s faith for us. It is in its original power-point form; as you’ll note I didn’t format it for the blog (but pay attention to the material, very rich). It is about 7 Word doc pages long, so long for blog, but it’s worth it!
Stronger than Super Glue
(what a Christ centred life really looks like) Galatians 2
Myk Habets (BCC ’09)
1. Introduction: How seriously do we take Jesus?
Play a game of Hangman or 15 questions. Guess this word.
PP1 V I C A R I O U S
It is an odd word,
an uncommon word,
a little used word – and yet
It is an important word,
a profound word,
a word with which we must get reacquainted with.
We believe Jesus is central, that he saves us by grace alone through faith alone, that he is our substitute and that he did for us what we could not do for ourselves (and would not if we were able). And that is biblical, correct, and godly.
How strongly do we believe this? Really.
My conviction is – we don’t take Christ seriously enough.
Now I am not questioning anyone’s piety, sincerity, or Christian commitment. Not at all. Far be it from me to do so.
What I am questioning is how deeply we think about Christ,
how seriously we include Christ in our daily life and thoughts,
and how significant Christ actually is to our Christianity.
Last week we celebrated Easter and remembered the death and resurrection of Christ. And surely, the cross of Christ stands at the centre of our faith and of the mission of the Gospel.
But in order to give understanding to the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have to get to grips with the man – Jesus the Christ – Jesus our Lord – Jesus my God.
I believe we have to stress again the fact that in the incarnation and the cross Christ has
penetrated into the darkest depths of our abject human misery and perdition,
where he takes out place,
intercedes for us,
substitutes himself for us,
and makes the atoning restitution which we could not make,
thereby reconciling us to God in the Holy Spirit as his dear children.
And in proclaiming this we must return to a concentration on the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ in the incarnation and atonement, in death and resurrection.
In fact, I would go so far as to say this is the most urgent need of the church today. To return to the heart of the Gospel and ask ourselves what a Christ centred life really looks like.
It is one of the great ironies and tragedies that evangelical Christians . . .like us. . . often link the substitutionary act of Christ only with his death, and not with his incarnate person and life.
We thereby undermine the radical nature of substitution, something at the centre of the Gospel – Christ in our place and Christ for us in every respect.
Substitution understood in this radical way means that Christ takes our place in all our human life and activity before God,
even in our believing, praying, and worshipping of God –
for he has yoked himself to us in such a profound way that he stands in for us and upholds us at every point of our human relations before God.
The title of my talk today is
Stronger than Super Glue (what a Christ centred life really looks like)
And the dominant theme I want to unpack a little is that wonderful and blessed doctrine of our union with Christ.
In order to unpack this central idea a little and then apply it I want to consider Galatians chapter 2 especially, and a few other verses which help us makes sense of it.
2. Faith of Christ: Subjective or Objective Genitive?
Way back in the 1950s a debate started regarding the translation of certain key passages in Paul that had to do with justification by faith. The question was whether or not we should translate these passages as referring to Christ’s faith or to ours.
In the Greek language the construction could be translated either as a subjective genitive (Christ’s faith) or as an objective genitive (our faith in Christ).
Here are a number of the key texts in question (using the NASB version).
As I read each one you tell me if it is rendered a subjective genitive or an objective genitive.
Rom 3:22 “even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe, for there is no distinction.”
Rom 3:26 “for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Gal 2:16 “nevertheless knowing that a man is no justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”
Gal 2:20 “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 delivered Himself up for me.”
Gal 3:22 “But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”
Eph 3:12 “in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.”
Phil 3:9 “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”
As you can see, far from being peripheral, these passages are at the centre of Paul’s thought.
Now my point is not to give any answers right now to each of these – we will come back to that later. But really, I just want to get you to think and to do some of the work here rather than just sit there passively and not commit yourself to what is being said.
At least three factors convince me that Paul is not talking about our faith in Christ, but Christ’s own faith, such that we are justified by his faith and live by his faithfulness.
1. It seems clear enough, as even the NASB translation reads, that Paul (in Eph 4:13) is speaking about our participation in Jesus’ own faith, knowledge and fullness.
In his earlier prayer (Eph 3:14-19) Paul prays that we would come to comprehend and to know the love of Christ, that we “may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” In Colossians Paul says, “For in Him [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made full” (Col 2:9-10). Clearly the fullness belongs to Jesus, and is then shared with us. Jesus himself tells us that he came to give us not simply peace, but his own peace (Jn 14:27), and his own joy (Jn 15:11).
And, of course, in his famous prayer it is abundantly clear that Jesus envisages the very love and glory of the Father and Son themselves dwelling in us personally (Jn 17:22-26).
In Matthew, Jesus claims not only that all things have been handed over to him, but also that he alone knows the Father, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him (11:27).
The heart of the gospel is the fact that Jesus alone knows the Father, and he alone is filled with the fullness of God, and that he has come to share himself and all that he is and has (fullness, knowledge, peace, joy, glory, love, and faith, among other things) with us.
Sharing in Jesus’ own life and relationship with his Father and the Spirit is the point.
2. The language (genitive construction) in Rom 3:26 (ek pisteos Jesou) is exactly the same in Rom 4:16 where Paul is talking about Abraham’s faith (ek pisteos Abraam). The NASB does not translate the Abraham passage as ‘our f
aith in Abraham,’ but as “those who are of the faith of Abraham.” If the NASB were consistent, Rom 3:26 would read, “for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who is of the faith of Jesus.”
And that brings me to Galatians 2.
3. In Galatians 2:16 we have a perfect illustration. The verse reads,
“nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, not by the works of the Law…”
This verse is a chiasm, named after the Greek letter ‘Chi’ which looks like an X in English. If you take away the right part of the X you are left with an arrow pointing to the right. In terms of a chiastic argument, the first point in the argument starts with the top left of the X, or arrow. The next point, which is the heart of the argument, is the tip. The last point is a repeat of the first point and starts at the beginning of the bottom of the left side of the X. If this is all too confusing to you, let me put Paul’s argument in chiastic sequence.
Aknowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law
Bbut through faith in Christ Jesus
Ceven we have believed in Christ Jesus,
B’that we may be justified by faith in Christ
A’not by the works of the Law.
Three times in this verse, Paul, allegedly, speaks of faith in Christ, which seems rather redundant and superfluous as it stands. Paul seems not to be repeating something for emphasis but stuttering on paper! Unless Paul is using a chiasm, and he has in mind not our faith in Christ, but Christ’s faith or faithfulness.
The verse works perfectly only when we understand that Paul is thinking about the faith of Christ. It would then read,
Aknowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law
Bbut through the faith of Christ Jesus,
Ceven we have believed in Christ Jesus
B’that we may be justified by the faith of Christ
A’not by the works of the Law.
• The first and the last clauses speak of not being justified by the works of the law.
• The second and next to the last speak of being justified by the faith of Christ himself.
• The middle clause speaks of our trusting in Jesus’ faith and faithfulness.
The point of Christian faith is not in the efficacy or power of our own faith.
We don’t believe in our belief – after all.
Rather, we are believing in the faith and faithfulness of Jesus himself, who stands in our place.
We believe in Jesus and in his faith. This is the centre, the tip of the arrow, of Paul’s chiastic argument.
Jesus has taken his place on our side of the covenant relationship with God. And in our place he has offered the perfect response of faith and faithfulness, wherein we are justified. We take our stand, according to Paul, upon his vicarious offering to the Father, upon his faith and faithfulness, that we may be justified not by our own works or faith, but by Jesus.’
We choose to be justified by Jesus’ faith and faithfulness, not our own.
The fruit of taking our stand on Jesus’ faith is peace, the cessation of striving to find a way to justify ourselves through anything that we may do, whether our own faith or works or religious activity of any sort.
We cling to,
and pin all our hopes on Jesus,
and upon who he is and what he has done as our vicarious representative.
Failure here is simply to doom ourselves to live with ourselves and our faith and our religious performance.
To not believe in Jesus—and in his faith and faithfulness—is to sentence ourselves to believe in ourselves and in our own efforts, and it is to suffer living with the failed assurance of such a way of believing.
So for Paul, we rest in Jesus himself, not in ourselves,
and in resting in him, in believing in him, his own glory, knowledge, peace, joy, love and faith,
begin to have room to come to personal expression in us.
If we translate the key passages as references to Jesus’ faith in our place, it would look something like the following.
Rom 3:22 “even the righteousness of God which comes through the faith/faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all those who believe, for there is no distinction.”
Rom 3:26 “for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who is of the faith of Jesus.”
Gal 2:16 “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through the faith of Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”
Gal 2:20 “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/faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”
Gal 3:22 “But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”
Eph 3:12 “in whom we have boldness and confident access through His faith/faithfulness.”
Phil 3:9 “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”
At every point and at all points in between Jesus and his life and faithfulness is the point!
And so we make the most sense when we read these verses as they should be – with the subjective genitive – it is the faith of Christ that we trust and obey.
It is his faith which connects us to God,
It is his obedience which saves us,
It is his perfect belief which gives us assurance, peace, and confidence,
It is his perfect life which we now live – in him!
This is a fantastic example of both the vicarious nature of Christ’s humanity (the father) and our union with Christ (the son).
3. Galatians 2 and union with Christ
While this teaching is utterly orthodox and is the standard Christian reading of these texts – it has, more recently, become so out of favour that to preach and teach this doctrine that Christ saves us – perfectly and completely, and that his vicarious humanity is the basis of our salvation from beginning to end – requires some justification and unpacking.
I want to just have a look at Galatians 2 a bit more to unpack this a little for us.
Faith involves living by the faith of Christ.
Notice the significance of Galatians 2.20,
‘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 the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.’
We have been brought to know God. Our old way of living in which we did not know God has been put to death with Christ. We now live, we have faith, we interpret the scriptures and do theology, and yet it is not us but Christ who lives in us.
The real believer is Christ and we live by and out of the human faith of Christ.
How is this so? By our union with Christ. Faith is being united, by the Holy Spirit, to Jesus Christ the Son of God the Father.
It is just like those Russian nesting dolls – right. We are in Christ Jesus and he is in us.
We are united to him so that when the Father looks upon us he sees us through Christ,
and when people look on us they see Christ throug
As the great Karl Barth once wrote:
‘To be a Christian is [by definition] (per definitionem) to be in Christ. The place of the community as such, the theatre of their history, the ground on which they stand, the air that they breathe, and therefore the standard of what they do and do not do, is indicated by this expression. Being in Christ is the [starting point] (a priori) of all the instruction that Paul gives his churches, all the comfort and exhortation he addresses to them.
(Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/2, p. 277)
Jesus has completed all the parts of our salvation in the whole course of his life. His human life he lived for us and in our place. The relation between our faith and Christ’s, our life now and his vicarious humanity for us, is exactly that described in Galatians 2.20 and described elsewhere in Paul as life in union with Christ.
All of Grace ≠ Nothing of Me!
This does not mean that we do nothing
although it does mean that we do nothing for our salvation.
In the logic of grace, All of grace does not mean nothing of me. All of grace means all of me.
The knowledge that forgiveness and salvation is all of grace liberates us out of ourselves into union with Christ, freeing us to live fully and freely out of him. All of grace means all of me, just as the action of God in Christ means all of me in Christ.
• Do you catch the significance of union with Christ through his incarnation ‘for us’?
• Do you see the need for Christ to assume all of humanities’ brokenness, within His very life?
Do you see how faith is ‘vicarious’ in this paradigm?
• We could never do the heavy lifting, thus Christ!
• We could never pay for our own sins – thus Christ!
• We could never worship God with the obedience it demands – thus Christ!
• Thus God, in Christ, had to do for us that which we could not do for ourselves.
Now this teaching in no way denigrates human faith, trust, or believing. It just relocates it to the right position: behind that of Christ’s.
In salvation our faith is laid hold of by Christ, enveloped, and upheld by his unswerving faithfulness. No human being can do that for another – but this is exactly what the Lord Jesus does when he gives himself to us by taking our place and yields to the heavenly Father the response of faith and love which we are altogether incapable of yielding.
And that is what A Really Christ Centred Life looks like.
If time permits:
Participating by the Holy Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father
and the Son’s mission from the Father to the world.
This is what makes Christ our high priest, this is what makes us a royal priesthood – in Christ. This is the whole of life!