I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Note 13 at Ga 2:20: Paul was preaching a death to self, but it is very important to notice how this death took place. Paul was dead through what Jesus did. Paul experienced this death by simply reckoning what had already happened through Christ to be so (Ro 6:11).
There are people today who have taken the "dying to self" doctrine to an extreme, and instead of being free of self, they are totally self-centered. They constantly think of self. It may be in all negative terms, but it is still self-centered. Truly humble people are ones who are Christ-centered. Dying to self is not a hatred for self but rather a love of Christ more than self.
There are false religions that preach a denial of self. The legalistic Jews Paul was preaching against did that. Paul was not just dead to self; he was alive to God. A focus on the denial of self without the enthronement of Christ leads to legalism.
Note 14 at Ga 2:20: Paul's "old man" was dead through Christ (Ro 6:2-11). He was truly free to live, but it wasn't actually Paul who was living--it was Christ living through him. Paul had learned the secret of victorious Christian living; it is not us living for Jesus, but Jesus living through us.
Failure to understand this simple truth is at the root of all legalism and performance mentality. The Law focuses on the outer man and tells it what it must do. Grace focuses on the inner man and tells it what is already done through Christ. Those who are focused on what they must do are under Law. Those who are focused on what Christ has done for them are walking under grace.
The Christian life is not just hard to live--it's impossible to live in our human strength. The only way to walk in victory is to let Christ live through us.
Note 15 at Ga 2:20: Notice that Paul didn't say he was living by faith in the Son of God. He said, "I live by the faith of the Son of God" (emphasis mine). He used this same terminology twice in Ga 2:16. We were so spiritually bankrupt that we couldn't even believe for salvation with our own faith. We had to use God's supernatural faith (Eph 2:8) that came to us as a gift through hearing God's Word (Ro 10:17).
There is a human faith that is limited to believing only what we can perceive through our five senses, but the supernatural, God-kind of faith goes beyond what we can see, taste, hear, smell, and feel. God's kind of faith calls those things that be not as though they already were (Ro 4:17, see note 16 at Ro 12:3).
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