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Jesus Christ: Not I, But Christ (Galatians 2:20)

By Stephen F. Olford
I am often asked to sign my name in Bibles or books as I travel and minister the Word of God around the world. When I oblige, I usually append to my signature Galatians 2:20. This gives me an opportunity to tell people what this verse means and why it has become increasingly precious to me as the years have come and gone.

Why is this verse so important to me? Because it gets to the heart of the most essential matters of the Christian life. As F.B. Meyer puts it, this is Paul's "confession of the power of the cross in his own life. It stood between him and the past. His self-life was nailed there, and this new life was no longer derived from vain efforts to keep the Law, but from the in dwelling and [overflowing} of the life of Jesus -- the perennial spring of John 4:14."1

As we look at Galatians 2:20, we need to examine the context, the content, and the challenge of this matchless verse.

I. The Context of This Verse

"When Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed" (Galatians 2:11). The whole background of the confrontation between Paul and Peter is beyond the purpose of this message. In fact, too many "unknowns" have boggled greater minds than mine. What is clear is that Paul "stood up" to Peter for a good reason. Peter was to be blamed. He was acting not only against his conscience but, more importantly, against the revelation he had received from God (see Acts 10 Acts 15).

What stirred Paul's holy indignation was the deceitfulness and compromise of Peter. In Antioch Peter had shared meals (including, perhaps, the Lord's Supper) with non-Jewish Christians. Everyone knew this and rejoiced. Peter was the first apostle to evangelize Gentiles (Acts 10,Acts 11,Acts 15) and was, therefore, to be trusted. But when "certain men came from James [the pastor of the Jerusalem church]...he withdrew [from this fellowship with Gentiles]...fearing those who were of the circumcision [Jews]"(Galatians 2:12). This disorderly behavior seriously influenced "the rest of the Jews" [in the church] who "played the hypocrite with him"-- including Barnabas, who "was carried away with their hypocrisy" (Galatians 2:13).

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