Not I, But Christ
The Challenge of Galatians 2:20
by Dr. Stephen Olford*
“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” (Gal. 2:20). In this matchless statement Paul the apostle encapsulates the gospel of the grace of God. It is the gospel of the EXTINGUISHED life–“I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). We have died to the law. By dying with Christ, who died under the law’s penalty, we find that all the law’s demands were satisfied in Him. They have no more hold on us. Being crucified, moreover, means that we have died to self. The dominating control of the fallen nature has been broken. If we do not understand this, then we are missing something very important. The extinguished life means death to self and sin…
So in Galatians 2:20 we have the gospel of the extinguished life. But it is also the gospel of the RELINQUISHED life. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). No longer is our life self-centered but Christ-centered. By the ministry of the Holy Spirit (as we shall see later) the Lord Jesus lives out His life in us day by day as we maintain total dependence on Him. The apostle says the same thing in his letter to the Romans, exhorting his readers to “present [themselves] to God as being alive from the dead and [their] members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13). We do not relinquish ourselves to an enemy, but we present ourselves as a bride to the bridegroom who has wooed us and won us in love.
As a pastor I have had the privilege of marrying couples–times without number. As the two stand before me, I say to the bride, “Will you have this man to be your lawful wedded husband?” She answers in two words, “I will,” and they are joined for life. That is the kind of presentation we are thinking of when we speak of the relinquished life. We are saying in effect, “Lord, I am married to You, being alive from the dead, to bring forth fruit unto God. Lord, from now on my language and life are two words: “I will.” Every day we must repeat that once-for-all interaction: “I am wholly Yours, Lord. Use me for Your glory.”
Once again it is the gospel of the DISTINGUISHED life–“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” (Gal. 2:20). That phrase, “faith in the Son of God,” is loaded with rich meaning. Because of our union with Christ crucified and risen, we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4); we actually share with the Son of God the distinguished life.
Two aspects of this distinctive life are spelled out for us. As the Son of God, our Lord in His perfect humanity chose to live a dependent life. He lived by faith (see John 5:19, 30; 6:57; 8:28; and 14:10). We also must live by faith (Rom. 1:17; Heb. 11:6). This life of dependence should be our distinctive. Anything less than this is to live in sin, “for whatever is not [of] faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).
The other distinctive is that the Son of God lived a devoted life. He “gave Himself for [us]” (Gal. 2:20). That takes in the entire sweep of His life, service, and even death, in response to the will of His Father. In similar fashion, we are called to the high and holy distinction of yielding ourselves to God as living sacrifices so that we might “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2). Dependence on God and devotion to God are the marks of divine distinction. Such distinctiveness can be detected anywhere and under any circumstances by a watching world. Out of such a life the streams of living water flow in blessing to others.
Certainly this is the testimony of God’s people throughout the centuries. Martin Luther experienced this blessing:
[William Barclay observed of Luther] “He was a show-piece of discipline and penance, and self denial and self-torture. ‘If ever,’ he said, ‘a man could be saved by monkery, that man was I.’ He had gone to Rome; it was considered to be an act of great merit to climb the Scala Sancta, the great sacred stairway, on hands and knees. He toiled upwards seeking that merit that he might win; and suddenly there came to him the voice from heaven: ‘The just shall live by faith'[Rom. 1:17]. The life at peace with God was not to be attained by this futile, never-ending, ever-defeated effort; it could only be had by casting himself on the love and mercy of God as Jesus Christ has revealed them to men. It is when a man gives up the struggle which the pride of self thinks it can win, but must ever lose, and when he abandons himself to the forgiving love of God that peace must come.”
The blessing that flowed from Luther’s life changed the face of Europe and, ultimately, the fate of millions …
Devotional literature is replete with such testimonies … [this illustrates] the blessing that we can know when we understand and appropriate the truth embodied in Galatians 2:20. As God’s people, we must be willing to pray and mean:
Crucified with Christ, my Savior, I am dead to sin and shame; Now His life rules my behavior– To the glory of His name.
 William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians. The Daily Study Bible. (Edinburgh, St. Andrews Press, 1959), pp. 23-24.
This article is an excerpt from by Stephen Olford’s book, Not I, But Christ. Wheaton IL: Crossway Books, 1995. pp.32-35,41.
* Assist News Service: INTERNATIONAL PREACHER, BROADCASTER STEPHEN OLFORD DIES. Known as a “preacher’s preacher,” Dr. Stephen Olford, founder and chairman of Olford Ministries International, died the evening of Sunday, Aug. 29, after suffering a massive stroke. He was 86. Olford was born in Zambia, the son of missionaries Frederick and Bessie Olford, but grew up in Angola where he committed his life to Christ. After preparing for the ministry in the U.K., Olford was appointed an Army Scripture Reader during World War II. After the war he was involved in an extensive evangelistic and preaching ministry throughout the U.K. and worldwide. He later served as pastor of Duke Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Surrey, England (1953-1959) and Calvary Baptist Church in New York City (1959-1973). He pioneered a Christian TV program, “Encounter,” in New York, and his Sunday-morning services were broadcast worldwide on radio. His weekly half-hour radio program, also called “Encounter,” continues to air in the U.S. and overseas. In 1980 he founded the Institute for Biblical Preaching. In 1985 Olford and his wife, Heather, moved to Memphis, Tenn., where he began the Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching three years later. It is also the headquarters of Olford Ministries International where his son, David Olford, is the president. The senior Olford was recognized nationally and internationally for his Christ-centered, expository preaching and has received numerous awards, honorary degrees and distinctions. He also authored many books, booklets and preaching resources. [He will be greatly missed, but his teaching legacy continues. -JBW]