I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is 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.
Ira Sankey was a gospel singer and hymn writer associated with the ministry of nineteenth century evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Sankey told a story that has helped me in my walk of faith. While walking with his little daughter Emma on a freezing, frosty day, Sankey said: “Emma, better let me take your hand as we walk.” But Emma wanted to keep her hand in her new warm muff and refused her father’s appeal. Then they came to an icy place in the road and Emma’s feet went out from under her. When Sankey again offered her his supporting hand, Emma said: “Papa, give me your little finger.” He gave her his little finger in her grip and things went well until they came to more ice, and Emma fell. This time Emma looked up pleading, “Papa, give me your hand!” Sankey closed his fingers tight around her wrist, supporting her for the rest of their walk. (Elias Nason, Frank Beale, Lives and Labors of Eminent Divines)
I often think of Sankey walking with his daughter as an image of my heavenly Father’s walk with me. I am reminded that He is holding me! Thoughts of God holding me take me to the remarkable phrase in today’s Scripture: “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” But consider another way of understanding that phrase. Rather than living by faith in the Son of God, we get to live by the faith of the Son of God. Significantly, this is how the King James Bible translates the phrase: “I live by the faith of the Son of God”.
Theologians over the centuries have debated these two possible translations of Paul’s words. But the standard Greek grammar of our day, Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics”, says that most grammarians today favor the translation of living by the faith of the Son of God. And the translation of living by the faith of Christ best represents Paul’s earlier words, “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” The theme of the believer’s oneness with Christ is powerful in all of Paul’s thinking as God places the believer “in Christ”. Elsewhere Paul says that God “is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). It is not about us, but about Him!
Eminent theologian Thomas Torrance writes about believers’ living by the faith of the Son of God:
“’The faith of the Son of God’ is to be understood here not just as my faith in him, but as the faith of Christ himself, for it refers primarily to Christ’s unwavering faithfulness, his vicarious and substitutionary faith which embraces and undergirds us, such that when we believe we must say with Paul ‘not I but Christ’, even in our act of faith…This is precisely what the Lord Jesus Christ does when in giving himself for us he completely takes our place, makes our cause his very own in ever respect.” (Thomas Torrance, A Passion for Christ”)
This is the faith by which we lay hold of Christ our Savior. It is in Christ holding us rather than our holding onto Him that our salvation and security lie. We are enfolded in the strong hand of Christ who made Himself one with us! Our faith is our reliance on Christ’s faithfulness and a participation in His faith.
At my seminary graduation our school’s chaplain gave me a copy of Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, written by Taylor’s son and daughter-in-law. In that book I read of the great nineteenth missionary who went alone to China and established the China Inland Mission. I learned how Taylor read today’s scripture in Greek and was taken aback by the words living the faith of the Son of God.it became to him a source of great peace in his many trials and heartaches.Taylor wrote in his journal:
“How then to have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is and all He is for us; His life, His death, His work, He Himself as He is revealed to us in His Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts, not a striving to have faith…but a looking to the faithful One seems all we need; a resting in the Loved One entirely, for time and for eternity.”(Howard and Geraldine Taylor, Taylor’s Spiritual Secret)
So, it isn’t about us, but about Him! It’s not about how much faith we have or don’t have! Christ is holding us! We can say with the apostle Paul, “It isn’t me but Christ!” “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Grace and peace,
P.S. Speaking about living by the faith and faithfulness of Christ; that is the heart of our 2018 Advent Devotional, Living the Life! Daily Reflections on the Upper Room Discourse. Lent begins Wednesday, February 14. Perhaps you would like copies for your Sunday School class, home Bible study, church. Order printed copies today!