4 April 2023

As we approach the observance of ‘Good Friday’, invariably the focus and meditation would be on ‘the cross’ and its implications for God’s people.

Interestingly, as we study the book of Galatians, ‘the cross’ is manifested in the writings of Apostle Paul, not obviously at first notice, but it is certainly there on closer observations.

Paul writes in his epistles of three different deaths and resurrections, which are part and parcel of our Christian experience; and these are also seen in the epistle of Galatians.
The first is death to sin and the subsequent life to God, which happens to all Christians by virtue of our union with Christ in His death and resurrection. By it we share in the benefits both of Christ’s death (its forgiveness) and of His resurrection (its power) {Galatians 2:20}. This takes place in our conversion and demonstrated in our baptism. This death is legal; it is a death to sin by union with Christ in His death to sin (bearing its penalty), and the resultant resurrection with Him leads to the new life of freedom which justified sinners enjoy.

The second is the death to self, called variously taking up the cross, or denying, crucifying or mortifying ourselves. As a result, we live a life of fellowship with God. This death is not something which has happened to us, and which we are now told to ‘reckon’ or remember, but something which we must deliberately do ourselves though by the power of the Holy Spirit, putting our old nature to death. Indeed, it is an essential aspect of our original and continuing repentance, and we cannot be Christ’s disciples without it; this attitude is what it means to take up the cross daily. This death is moral; it is death to self as we put to death the old nature and its evil desires, and the resurrection which follows leads to a new life of righteousness in fellowship with God (Galatians 5:24,25).

The third kind of death and resurrection is the carrying about in our bodies of the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our bodies (Galatians 6:12-14,17; 2 Cor. 4:9-10). The area for this is our bodies; it refers to their infirmity, persecution and mortality. It is in this connection that Paul could say both “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:30-31) and ‘we face death all day long’ (Rom. 8:36). For it is a continuous physical frailty. But then the ‘resurrection’ – the inward vitality of renewal from the life of Jesus within us is continuous too (2 Cor. 4:16). This third death is physical; it is a death to safety, a ‘being given over to death for Jesus’ sake’, and the corresponding resurrection is Jesus’ strength which He makes perfect in our weakness.

The first death, the legal death, was a ‘death unto sin once and for all’, but the moral and physical deaths are daily – even continuous – experiences for the Christian disciple. Notice that certain principles of the cross are clearly manifested in the three kinds of death.
The first is the choice between selfish ambition and sacrifice. Jesus’ determination to go to the cross was ‘powered’ by His sacrificial love – He counted equality with God as not something to be grasped, although He is equal to God the Father. This is the same attitude we should have as we follow Him.
The second was between power and service. Jesus came to serve and not to be served. The world loves power; are we prepared to be true servants of God as we follow the Lord Jesus.

The third is between comfort and suffering. Insistence on security is incompatible with the way of the cross. Are the three ‘deaths’ real and manifested in our lives as His people; are the corresponding ‘resurrections’ experienced and true in our lives??

Ponder over these as we think of the ‘cross’ as we observe ‘Good Friday’.


Galatians 2:19-21 (NIV)

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God. who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

We see here the ‘first death’ and the ‘first resurrection’: Christ has borne the penalty of our law-breaking, and the blessing of what He has done has become ours because we are united with Him. Being one with Christ, we are able to say ‘We died to the law’ (vs 19), meeting its demands, because ‘we have been crucified with Christ’ and now He lives in us (vs 20).

The assertion of our death and resurrection with Christ is Paul’s answer to the charge of antinomianism; granted nobody can be justified by keeping the law, but that does not mean that we are free to break the law. On the contrary, it is inconceivable that we should continue in sin. Why so? Because we have died; we have been crucified with Christ; our old sinful life (in us) has received the condemnation it deserved. Consequently, we, (‘our old sinful guilty life’), no longer live but Christ lives in us. We,( ‘our new justified life’), now live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Paul is referring to the death and resurrection of Christ, and to our death and resurrection through union with Him.

Summing up, Christ died for us (who believe), and we died with Him, meeting the law’s demands and paying sin’s just penalty. Then Christ rose again and lives, and we live through Him, sharing in His resurrection life – justification by faith, then, does not set aside God’s grace (vs21); justification by faith in fact magnifies the grace of God, declaring that it is by grace alone. It is the notion of justification by law which sets aside the grace of God.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).
Here we see ‘the second death’ and the ‘second resurrection’ by implication.

Paul is here concerned with the meaning of moral freedom; it is not self-indulgence but self-control, not serving ourselves but serving each other in love (vs 13) – and here we see the inner conflict of which all Chrisians are conscious. Paul calls the fallen nature “flesh” and the Holy Spirit Himself “Spirit”. In verses 16-18, he describes the contest between the two, because the desires of the flesh and of the Spirit are contrary to each other.
Paul describes the acts of the flesh (19-21) and the fruit of the Spirit (22-23) and brings up the question on how we can ensure that the desires of the Spirit predominates over the desires of the flesh – we are to ‘crucify’ the flesh, with its evil passions and desires(the second death) and we are to live by (second resurrection), and keep in step with the Spirit. We are to be ruthless in rejecting the flesh – this should be our attitude to the fallen nature. If we are not ready to crucify ourselves in this manner, we shall soon find ourselves ‘crucifying the Son of God all over again’.

“Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ” (Galatians 6:12). The Judaizers were in fact avoiding the offence of the cross.

To preach circumcision is to preach salvation by the law, that is, by human achievement – such a message removes the offence of the cross. which is that we cannot earn our salvation. It therefore exempts us from persecution.

To preach the ‘cross’ (Gal. 3:1) is to preach salvation by God’s grace alone. Such a message is a stumbling block because it is grievously offensive to human pride; it therefore exposes us to persecution. It implies that it is not possible to be faithful and popular simultaneously. Persecution, physical sufferings – all these amount to the ‘third death’. In the midst of suffering for Christ and with Christ, “the inner man can be renewed day by day” (the third resurrection) although the ‘outer man may be decaying’ (the third death) { 2 Corinthians 4:16 }.

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul continued, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Cor. 4: 17-18).

We therefore see in the book of Galatians the reference to the ‘three deaths’ and the ‘three resurrections’, propounded by Apostle Paul. We may miss these if we just read through these verses superficially, but the above sharing, hopefully, shows their presence in this book itself.