A friend in the Southeast recently sent a private post expressing concern at a sermon he had heard in which the preacher quoted Galatians 2:20 and insisted that the work of salvation involves two crosses — Jesus on his, and us on ours.
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The climax of Galatians 2 comes in verse 21: “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness (right standing with God) comes through law (our ability to obey God adequately to merit his favor), then Christ died needlessly.”
We have often missed the point of Galatians (and of Romans) when we read “law” (most of the time the Greek does not have an article with “law,” as the NASB correctly points out in the margin) and thought only of the Law of Moses, if Paul’s concern were only with circumcision or some other element of Old Testament teaching. That happened to be the particular law involved, and Paul uses it to make his point.
But “law” in Galatians and Romans really stands for “law-keeping” and it represents any attempt by sinful human beings to weave a ladder to God from the threads of their own performance record or their own record of obedience of God’s commands. If we do not see this, we miss the meaning of Galatians and of Romans for the whole church after the 1st century, when circumcision stopped being a major issue among believers in Christ.
Yes, we were also “crucified with Christ” — almost 2,000 years and in his very person — because he represented us before God in all that he did on our behalf. We can never contribute to that finished work, or supplement or improve on it. Our obedience adds nothing to the work which sets us right with God. It is rather our “thank-you” to God for what he did for us in Jesus long before we were even born.