Because We are Adopted, We are Given the Holy Spirit
Instead of seeing the difference between sinner and sinner as Christ’s justification of some sinners, many see the difference as the new birth causing Christians to not sin (too much) anymore. Their hope is their dying to self and Christ living in them, so much so that they are willing to ignore the context of Galatians 2 which is talking not about Spirit renewal but about Christ’s atonement and Christ’s righteousness. One writer argues: “Galatians 2:20 sure seems to be hard to defeat. It is dying to self and Christ living in you that proves that you are a Christian.”
Galatians 2:16— “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a sinner.
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I would live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in regard to 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. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
The “experimental” writers use Galatians 2:20 to prove a present ontological renewal by the indwelling Christ. But the context is about legal identification with Christ’s death. Verse 17 speaks of justification in Christ.
Verse 21–Paul does not say that if justification were partly another way, that Christ’s death should still not be denied. Rather, Paul says justification is all or nothing. It’s by Christ’s death or it’s not.
To be “dead with Christ” is not to be dying with Christ because of an inner new brith. To be dead with Christ is to to escape our dead “legal state” by means of Christ’s own legal death. There are only two legal states. Some sinners are not crucified with Christ, and still under the wrath of God. Other sinners, however, Christ loved. And the work of this love is Christ’s death—”gave Himself for me”.
These are not two different blessings here, Christ’s death for the elect, and then the elect’s “died with Christ”. No, the two ways of saying it are about the same good news. The justified elect’s “I have been crucified with Christ” is the Galatians 2 way of saying that Christ’s death was because of Christ’s legal identification with our dead state..“ Crucified with Christ” is Paul’s way to teach that Christ’s representation is substitution.
Galatians 2 is about justification and the atonement. “I died to the law” in verse 19 is my justification by means of Christ’s death to the law because of my imputed sins.
Look at verse 20 in Galatians 2. In What’s At Stake in the Doctrine of Justification (IVP), DA Carson argues that the “Christ lives in me” should be read as “Christ lives in regard to me” in parallel to texts like Romans 4:25 and 5:10.
He is not denying the important mystery of Colossians 1:27 (Christ in you, the hope of glory). Neither am I.
But let the “Christ who lives in me” stand in 2:20. The “experimental” puritans still need to account for the rest of the verse which says–I am crucified, Christ lives. I am dead. If that death is not by legal justification (being placed legally into Christ’s death), what does it mean?
“I have been crucified” does not mean “I am dying” or “I am being born again”. “I have been crucified” is about Christ’s death in history—he loved me and gave himself for me. The “I died to the law” of verse 19 is NOT by means of the new birth or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 4 teaches us that we are given the Holy Spirit because we are legally adopted. We are not adopted because we have been given the Holy Spirit. 4:5, “to redeem those who were under the law, so that we would receive ADOPTION as sons. 6 And BECAUSE YOU ARE SONS, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” The Holy Spirit of Adoption does not cause the children to be adopted. Christ’s adoption of children results in Christ giving them the Holy Spirit.