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What is the meaning of “Christ lives in me” in Galatians 2:20?

Christ lives in me

Galatians 2:20 is a well-known passage with profound implications: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This declaration of identity underscores the reality of all who have placed their trust in the Son. We must understand what Paul meant in this passage and its relevance in the 21st century.

First, let’s consider the context. The book of Galatians emphasizes salvation by grace through faith and rejects salvation by works. The argument extends beyond justification and addresses the Christian way of life. The early church faced a significant conflict as some Judaizers insisted that Gentile Christians must be circumcised to be fully accepted by God (see Acts 15). Apparently, some Gentile believers were succumbing to the pressure, prompting Paul to write this letter. In chapter 2, Paul recounts his visit to Jerusalem to meet with the church leaders. Following this, he confronts Peter for hypocrisy, and then comes Galatians 2:20.

The statement “Christ lives in me” holds profound theological significance. When we are born again, we become united with Christ in His life, death, and resurrection. Understanding our union with Jesus eliminates the need to rebuild the old system of law-keeping. Paul describes this union in his letter to the Romans:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:3–11)

Our union with Christ resolves one objection people have to the concept of grace. If we are declared righteous through faith in Christ rather than through obedience to the law, does that mean we can cast off all moral restraints and live however we want? After all, where sin increased, grace abounded even more (Romans 5:20). The answer lies in our new identity, rooted in our union with Christ. We identify with Him and live as He does, which means we live for God.

Moreover, the Holy Spirit, sent by the Son, dwells within us. It is through the Spirit’s supernatural connection that we are bound to Christ. Our lives are no longer lived for ourselves; instead, we follow Christ under the influence of the Spirit, bringing glory to the Father.

Our identity in Christ also carries personal implications. Believing that Christ lives in us means we represent Him here on earth, imperfect though we may be. The expected result is a transformed lifestyle, thoughts, desires, character, and goals. Even the way we approach daily activities like chores should change. Consider the example of a young man who gets married. His status as a married man naturally brings about changes in lifestyle, behavior, and attitude; otherwise, there would be a disconnect between his actions and his new situation. Similarly, a relationship with Jesus is transformative, affecting every aspect of our lives. We become His students, learning and applying His teachings. We love what He loves and hate what He hates. Becoming more like Jesus is our ultimate objective (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 2:6).

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What is the meaning of “Christ lives in me” in Galatians 2:20?
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This page last updated: April 23, 2024