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Sermon October 16, 2016

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1275

October 16, 2016 Galatians 2:15-21

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

 

“Christ’s Faith”

 

  • Einstein’s Brain & Christ’s Faith

 

If you have ever seen the movie IQ with Walter Matthau, Meg Ryan, and Tim Robbins, you might remember the scene with Albert Einstein (Matthau) and Edward Walters (Robbins) are walking down the sidewalk and Einstein is trying to figure out how to get his niece to go out with someone like Edward who is “just” an auto mechanic. His niece, played by Ryan, thinks she must marry an intellectual in order to have brilliant children, but Einstein thinks she should marry from the heart, someone like this guy who works at an auto shop. Einstein says she would never date someone like Edward. The mechanic Edward responses, “That’s easy, just lend me your brain for a couple of days.” Einstein ponders that thought for a moment and then says, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Edward looks back, “What would be the odds of that happening?”

 

I raise that scene so that we might imagine for a moment the possibility that we could pray, not for Einstein’s brain (although that’s not a bad prayer), but for Christ’s faith. “Just lend me your faith, Jesus!” Well, that's what I think is possible and we can see it in God's word.

 

  • Galatians 2:20 – Christ’s Faith & Our Faith

 

Let's start with Galatians 2:20,

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

Galatians 2 is intriguing because of the possibilities that exist in translation and in interpretation of the phrase “I live by faith in the Son of God.” That is not the only translation available to us. The old King James Version reads this way, “I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Did you hear the difference? It is a small preposition that makes a world of difference in how we understand Paul’s words. Do we live by faith in Jesus Christ or by the faith of Jesus Christ? It makes a huge difference when we begin to imagine our faith in Christ as compared to Christ’s faith! Imagine the possibilities for your life if you could live by the faith of Jesus Christ! What if Jesus would indeed lend us his faith?!

I also looked up other translations and while nearly all the modern translations use faith in Christ the Complete Jewish Bible renders it this way, When the Messiah was executed on the stake as a criminal, I was too; so that my proud ego no longer lives. But the Messiah lives in me, and the life I now live in my body I live by the same trusting faithfulness that the Son of God had, who loved me and gave himself up for me.

 

Such a wonderful phrase, to “live by the same trusting faithfulness that the Son of God had”. That's the faith I seek and I hope we all seek, to trust as Jesus did. That is the faith that carries us through every situation and trial of life.

If that is not enough for you a third possibility exists: in Greek grammatical structure both “in and of” can coexist in the phrase so that a third translation makes possible this idea, “I live by faith in the Son of God and by the faith of the Son of God.” (I also know that it may mean that we live today only because Christ was faithful. So you will know that I know!)

No matter how we interpret this passage, one thing becomes clear to us - faith is the issue, whether it is our faith in Christ or Christ’s faith living in us, it is faith that is formed. Paul is writing about the underpinning or the foundation of living the Christian life. For the apostle Paul the Christian life is lived through a formative faith – formative because Christ lives in us.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This is what is called the transformation of the self. Paul characteristically speaks of our being “in Christ.” And our having been in Christ means that we are constantly being transformed in Christ, by Christ, and through Christ. Because we are in Christ, we are constantly being transformed. In passages like Romans 12:2 Paul actually commands transformation: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-- what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

 

I have been crucified with Christ: God justifies his people in the experience of being crucified with Christ. Paul uses the perfect tense of the verb which makes the most accurate translation, "I have been and continue to be crucified with Christ." It is an action which occurred and continues to occur shaping the present. Dying with Christ is not a one-time event at baptism, but is a continuing daily event, it describes the ongoing life we live in service to God. Paul does say that Christ lives in me, but the implication of the text is that this is the Risen One who was also crucified. We still live in the flesh and blood of suffering and pain but we live also by faith risking a life that is only found in being crucified with Christ. Being crucified with Christ remains a daily reality for us as we suffer and struggle in life. Pain and suffering is part of the experience of the community of believers who bear one another’s burdens as Christ bore our burdens upon the cross.

Christ lives in us and is transforming our lives toward a trusting faith that Christ himself had and has. That is good news indeed!

 

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 – A New Creation

 

The second text I want to examine this morning is from 2 Corinthians 5:17,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

In one sense the transformation of our lives has already occurred by our being in Christ. Everything is transformed into a new creation. But there is more to be done, for we are finite, fallen beings who continue to need transformation in our lives. But the reality is, you and I are new creations! A new creation is a new start, a fresh beginning – everything is new! This passage is excellent to use in teaching new believers because it teaches not only that we have a new perspective but it also teaches some of the key aspects of the gospel message. It brings the good news of what God has done in Christ, what we are in Christ, and what we are called to do in Christ.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconcilingthe world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:17-21)

 

What Christ has done – reconciled us to God.

What we are in Christ – a new creation.

What we are called to do – share the message of reconciliation as ambassadors.

It is a great passage for all Christians, not just new converts, because we all need to be reminded of our core story, our core value to God and the values we treasure in life, and our fundamental message to the world. We are in Christ and thus a new creation. As a new creation we are able to grow into the faith of Christ as Christ is formed in us. This leads us to our next passage.

 

  • Galatians 4:19 – Christ Formed in Us

 

And the third from Galatians 4:19,

My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

 

The apostle Paul deeply yearns for the people to whom he ministers to have Christ formed in them. He likens it to the pain of childbirth. Paul’s pain came, in this case, because the Galatians were struggling with the formation of Christ. They were not being transformed. What if we imagined our lives as helping one another find ways to have Christ formed in us? How would our conversations and actions change toward one another? What kind of transformation would need to take place? What if our first thought when we encountered someone became, “how can Christ be formed in this person today?” What if that became our prayer for one another?

We can do many things to nurture Christ’s formation in us and his transformation of us and encourage one another to that goal. You know what they are: loving God and neighbor, going out into the world to witness, prayer, scripture reading and study, worship, and all the disciplines that come with being a believer. They nurture the formation of Christ in us, as do the experiences of life, filled with their pain.

The one who is being formed in us transforms our lives. I believe that the two interpretations, to live by faith in Christ and to live by Christ’s faith, are so deeply connected and interrelated that we cannot separate them. We cannot distinguish between our life transforming events or the formation of Christ in our inner being. This is an incredible metaphor that Paul employs. He is in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in the church. But much, if not all, of life is formed through pain. We learn as small children that a hot stove is something we should not touch. Some of us learn that through testing mom’s teaching that it will burn our hands. We learn powerful lessons of adulthood through the pains of adolescence, how to develop meaningful relationships and find our place in society. We learn as adults the many lessons of life, being a parent, keeping a job, hearing and obeying God’s will. All come for the most part through pain. We will soon learn more lessons through the pain of elections! Through all the suffering and pain, there is faith. Christ's faith, our faith, new creations, all formed in us.

 

 

  • Three Exhortations

 

I want to conclude with three exhortations related to these three passages.

  • Pray that Christ’s faith may live in you. Every point in these passages can and should be covered in prayer. But particularly I think it is crucial that we pray for Christ's faith to grow in us.

  • Recognize that you are a new creation (ambassadors). This is our “political” position in faith, to be ambassadors for the one who has sent us to proclaim the good news of Christ's faith and love.

  • Seek Christ’s formation in yourself and fellow believers. Again, we need to seek transformation and pray for it in ourselves and others. But we also should pray for the desire to encourage others to grow in Christ. Let's think about sharing more conversation in the things of faith and less in the trivial pursuits of weather and sports!

 

May we die daily to self in order to live to God, that faith may grow strong as we walk in Christ and by His word. Amen.