Epistle Reading Galatians 2:16-20

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

This morning we read from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians one of my favorite verses of Scripture – “it longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” This is the reality that we, as Christians, are working out in our lives – “work out your salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord” (Philippians 1:27) writes St. Paul. What are we to work out? That it’s no longer we who are supposed to be living, but Christ living in us. So let’s see what St. Paul has to say, and especially keeping in mind that on Friday we’ll enter the Fast to prepare for the Feast of our Lord’s Nativity. The Fasts are given to us as a time to analyze our lives in the light of Christ’s Gospel and to repent – so what does St. Paul teach us this morning about living as disciples of Jesus Christ?

1-St. Paul begins by reminding us that no man is justified by the works of the law, rather we’re justified by faith in Jesus Christ. From the beginning, from the time the law was given, it was a curse. The law was a curse because we couldn’t keep it, and by breaking the law we were condemned. No one kept the law until Christ; He kept the law, He exceeded the law, He fulfilled the law, and in His person and in His word He gave a new law, a new commandment. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34). The new commandment of Christ is of faith, and grace, and love.

2-St. Paul goes on to remind us that our free will is always at work in a saving relationship with Christ. Even as professed Christians we can be found sinners – we all go to confession, we’re all sinners. This doesn’t make Christ the minister of sin (St. Paul wants us to clearly understand that Christ is not at fault when we sin), rather we’re always responsible for the things we choose to do. Just because we’re baptized and chrismated in the Orthodox Church doesn’t mean that we’re not just as far from Christ as someone who’s never even heard the Gospel. A saving, justifying faith in Christ is lived. There are so many things in the Christian life that seem contradictory—we’re justified by our faith, and not our works, but a faith that is saving is always (according to the Scriptures) accompanied by the works of Christ.

3-St. Paul then ends by showing us an image (using himself) of what we’re supposed to be as Christians. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” This is the image, the icon, of what we’re to be as Orthodox Christians. And maybe we aren’t there yet, I’m not, very few people are. Getting there, by God’s grace, is the working out of our salvation. But that’s a work we have to actively pursuing each and every day of our lives. And if we’re not, I hate to say it, but if we’re not constantly striving to actualize the image of Christ in us, if we’re not struggling to live our baptisms, then what are we doing? Fr. Tom Hopko says our life is a farce, it’s a waste, even worse it’s blasphemous, to proclaim ourselves to be Christians and to not shed blood daily to live like Christ.

Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ”—in baptism we participate in the death and resurrection of Christ. All that’s evil, all that’s of my own, all that’s of the world, is to die in the blessed waters of the baptismal font. We leave behind the old man. So then, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” This is what we’re striving to do each and every day. The question for each situation isn’t “What Would Jesus Do?”; the question is “what would Jesus have me to do?” What must I do to show forth the image of Christ in me? The power to do this isn’t just from us. St. Paul finishes this verse by saying, “and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Our will and our effort is met and strengthened and guided by Christ, by the grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

One last time, this morning, we need to hear this verse; this is what our lives are to be: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

As we prepare this week to enter the Nativity Fast, as you eat your last meaty meal till Christmas, and realize on the calendar how quickly the Nativity will be here (funny how the 40 days looks long as a fast, but short as a time to prepare for the secular part of our celebrations), I urge you to set aside some time to begin looking at your life in the light of the Son of God become man. In the light of what St. Paul has reminded us that we’re called to be. Christ wasn’t born just so we could think about a cute baby in the manger Christmas morning. Christ was born to die – St. Gregory the Great says that the entire purpose of Christ’s birth was His death on the Cross. No one else has ever been born to die; we do die, but we’re not supposed to. He was born to die that we might live. And we’ve accepted that life, we’ve proclaimed our faith, but what have lived? In public, at work or school, in our homes with our families, in our minds, with just ourselves – have we been crucified with Christ so that He can live in us? Or are we professing one faith, but living something entirely different?

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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