Galatians 2:19-21 The church’s purpose is to establish Christ’s righteousness, not its culture and traditions

Galatians 2:19-21 The church’s purpose is to establish Christ’s righteousness, not its culture and traditions

For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 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 gave Himself up for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

Background

The Law functions as a bridge to bring people towards a fuller relationship with God. However, since the introduction of the Law by Moses, Israel has seen the rise of a culture built around rules of men, devoid of spirituality. Although Christ’s death has effectively ended the jurisdiction of Moses’s Law over Israel, they continued to build their lives around the culture of men and passed up on the Messiah. Unless the church die to men’s tradition and culture, we cannot establish Christ’s righteousness and live abundantly. Today’s devotion teaches us: The church’s purpose is to establish Christ’s righteousness, not men’s culture and traditions.

Observation

For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.

The focus of the Christian is Christ; to internalise His calling, to emulate His virtues and direction. Here, Paul makes a firm departure from the Law practising culture of the Jews: I died to the Law. What exactly does Paul mean by the Law here? To the Jews, the Law pertains to the Torah-centred lifestyle; a legalistic mentality, a worldly culture based on men’s agenda. However, Paul does not invalidate the Law but the legalistic and self-righteous culture of the Jewish people. For Paul has asserted that the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good (see Romans 7:12). The purpose of the Law (if used properly) is to atone for Israel’s sins and to reconcile men to God. Unknown to the Jews, when they condemned Jesus to the cross, they unwittingly discharged their priestly duty through the Law by offering the Lamb of God as the atoning sacrifice.

Therefore, the Law functions as a bridge (through the Law) to bring people towards a fuller relationship with God. In other words, the Law’s purpose was to work itself out of a job. The Law is likened to a bridge: once you cross it, it is passed its usefulness. However, Israel did not recognise the ultimate purpose God has for them, they continued to build their lives around the culture of the Law and passed up on the Messiah when He came.

To “die to” something or someone is to divorce, to stop further dealings with him. To “live to” someone is to fellowship by embracing his calling, and ideals. As believers are considered to have “died to sin”, “died to self”, and “died to the world”, they should have in the same token “died to the Law”. Paul unequivocally asserts that anyone who has not died to the Law is still considered alive to sin, self and the world. Therefore, for one to experience salvation and abundant living, he must die to men’s culture and agenda.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.

The death of Christ has effectively ended the jurisdiction of Moses’s Law over Israel and humanity. Paul spoke of men’s identification with Christ’s death which resulted in men’s liberation from the judgment of Moses’s Law: I have been crucified with Christ. Moses’s Law compels men through an external system of reward and punishment. But Christ compels men through the Spirit of love and truth. When believers are crucified with Christ, God no longer judges men by their performance or appearance but by the motives of their hearts.

The death of Christ which resulted in the abolishment of Moses’s Law carries a more profound implication for humanity. What Moses’s Law achieves (at its best) is a lawful society governed and administered by the intricate mechanisms of the blessing and curse. However effective it may be, it remains powerless against the base instincts of human ego, lust, and envy. What God had envisioned for humanity is not a cultured and lawful society, but a kingdom that moves with the righteousness, peace and joy of the Spirit (see Romans 14:17). Through Christ’s death, God puts the Spirit of His Son into every believer, so that they may live by Christ’s calling and ideals. No longer will men live by his own selfish agenda, but men will be compelled by the passion and calling of Christ.

And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

In view of men’s liberation from Moses’s Law, Paul concludes how he will live his life at the present: And the life which I now live in the flesh. No longer will he depend on his natural abilities to fulfil rules and rituals. But he will live by Christ’s directives and be sustained through His sacrificial love. Paul’s focus is no longer compelled by the standards of the Law but by the calling and the passion of Christ.

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.

The Judaizers, being accustomed to the Law find themselves like fish out of water. For they still cannot imagine how righteousness can be achieved without the constraining structures of rules and rituals. Paul has time and again asserted that the Law inhibits divine grace that regenerates the heart. The Law breeds a performance oriented mindset that accords false righteousness. Christ’s death effectively puts to death men’s ego, baptising them with the Holy Spirit.

Truth

The church’s purpose is to establish Christ’s righteousness, not men’s culture and traditions.

The church is not to propagate men’s culture and traditions, but to establish Christ’s righteousness and calling within the believer. Since the introduction of Moses’s Law, Israel has seen the rise of a culture built around rules of men, devoid of spirituality. The Pharisees and the scribes who were steep in men’s culture and traditions questioned Jesus, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” Jesus rebuked them with the words of prophet Isaiah,

‘This people honors ME with their lips,
But their heart is far away from ME.
‘But in vain do they worship ME,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” Matthew 15:8-9

The Law has contributed to a culture of false righteousness based on men’s rules. Therefore, it is pertinent that every believer be wise to discern what is of men and what is of Christ. To be crucified with Christ is to die to men’s culture and be rebirth into Christ’s righteous life.

The worship culture today is more about feeling good that Christ was crucified FOR us rather than WITH us. Worshipers seek to capture the moment of being loved by God while singing compositions by popular bands. These songs appeal to the agenda of men rather than the centrality of God. While we readily mouth the words, “I love you Jesus”, we are not prepared to lay down our lives for His cause. We sing it, but we do not mean it. The call of worship is to inspire believers towards the centrality of Christ, His calling, virtues and mission.

The evangelism culture today is about increasing numbers so that members may feel accomplished as a church. It is no wonder many churches are made up of congregations seeking divine favour as opposed to Christ-likeness. Christ’s mission is to make disciples and to transform societies through the message of repentance. The call of evangelism is to transform people according to the values of the kingdom.

The missionary culture today is more about financing as opposed to apostleship. Churches today use finances to fund or “buy over” existing churches in the mission field. But Christ painstakingly trained his disciples and sent them out as apostles into the nations. The call of missions is to enrich the harvest field with the truth, not with material wealth.

The fellowship culture in the church is centred around human sentiments and agenda. People gather for the sake of human sentiments, rather than to exalt one another towards greater faith and wisdom. In such meetings, no one dares to speak the truth for fear of offending another. And people come to mingle, not to hear the truth and walk in it. There is knowledge, but no regeneration. There are prayers, but few miracles. The call of fellowship is to build up one another towards greater faith and a higher understanding.

The ministry culture in the church is centred around programmes and popularity. Ministers are focused on acquiring “anointing” and drawing power so that they may gain popularity and finances to further their ambitions. However, ministers of the early church are single-mindedly focused on the word and on prayer. The distinctive of a Christ-centred ministry is abundance of revelations and miracles to transform lives and impact the society.

Right “being” will lead to right “doing”.

To die to the Law and be crucified with Christ also means moving from a life focused on “doing” to “being”. The Law is about “doing” as it requires men to meet its standards. However, one who is crucified with Christ focuses on “being” like Christ. While “doing” seeks to meet an external standard, “being” endeavours to live out Christ from within.

Therefore, right “being” inevitably leads to right “doing”. If one’s core is filled with ego and pride, it manifests itself in frustrations, hurtful words, and destructive behaviour. Therefore, in the course of being crucified with Christ, believers must change the way they operate. We must constantly ask ourselves the question: “Who am I?” Indeed, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. If Christ lives in me, what kind of person should I be?

Many seek to become Christ-like by focusing on “doing” the right things. Even as they endeavour to do what they deem as right, they retain their old self and core attributes. Some of us have a tendency to get angry at the slightest thing and we wonder where that sudden sudden outburst came from. Even though we try to constrain our words, our body language betrays us. A closer examination reveals a haughty, self-centred and insensitive person underneath. As the Spirit reveals our inadequacies, He creates within us clean heart and renew us a right spirit within us. With the right “being” restored through the Spirit, the pangs of resentment and irritability just disappears.

Application

What is the culture of your cell group and your church with respect to worship, evangelism, missions, fellowship and ministry?

  • The call of worship endeavours to live a spirit-filled life as an expression of worship to God.
  • The call of evangelism endeavours not only to bring hope but to transform lives according to righteousness.
  • The call of missions endeavours to send out apostles to enrich the harvest fields with the truth, not with material wealth.
  • The call of fellowship is to bring out the best in each by speaking the truth in love.
  • The call of ministry is not to fulfil the ambition of ministers but to establish righteousness in the world.

How do we administer the right “being” that leads to right “doing”? By filling ourselves with divine wisdom and love. Paul taught

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:8-9

  • True – this pertains to all that is permissible in the will of God.
  • Honorable – behaviour and standards that matches our identity as sons of God.
  • Right – just and fair dealings with others.
  • Pure – this pertains to sexual purity, purity in thoughts and motives.
  • Lovely – an effable mood and mindset.
  • Good repute – a recollection of the positive traits of people, being ready to bring out the best in others.

Dear Lord, cause our church to awake from the culture of worldliness. Help us to stop playing church and to take up the cross. Let the word and the presence of Christ be the true centre of our lives. Let the Christ within us arise and establish His righteousness and blessing in our families and our churches. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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