By Rachel Joyce
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but 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. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Galatians 2:20-21).
For those of us who grew up on a steady diet of God’s Word, the familiarity of these words can rob us of the power behind them. For those who are new to God’s Word, they may seem peculiar, incomprehensible.
Crucified with Christ.
When we trusted Jesus as our Savior, we accepted the truth that He died for us. God’s Word also teaches that when He died for us, we died with Him. We died to sin, to our sinful nature. We were buried with Him and we rose with Him to live as He did.
Baptism is the symbol that represents these incredible truths. As we felt the cold waters close over our head and as we were lifted up out of them with joy and triumph, we rejoiced in the truth that Jesus died for us and we were united with Him in that death, burial, and resurrection. We acknowledged that the life we now lived was a life of faith, characterized by the power of God’s Holy Spirit: a life of grace and love.
And now we rejoice that our Lord loved us, that He sacrificed Himself to bring us to God. We delight in Him, in His love and acceptance of us, in the truth that He lives within us and meets our needs.
These are the truths of Galatians 2:20. But what about verse 21? “I do not nullify the grace of God.” What on earth does that mean? (Actually, I think only on earth is it possible to nullify God’s grace.)
The word translated nullify is ἀθετέω, which is a pretty intense word. According to Thayer’s Bible Dictionary, it means to “neutralize or violate: - cast off, despise, disannul, frustrate, bring to nought, reject, to do away with, to set aside, disregard.” Included in the meaning is the idea of making it void, rejecting, refusing, or thwarting “the efficacy” (the effectiveness) of it.
The apostle Paul was committed to living out God’s grace — not nullifying it. He chose to live by faith, receiving God’s grace, living in its power, and extending it to others.
So what is grace? It’s another one of those terms we use, but do we really know what it means? Are we truly living it out? Ephesians 2:8 teaches us that it was by God’s grace and through faith that we were saved.
Thayer defines grace as “the concept of that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness…God’s merciful kindness.” Yes, that’s true, but grace is so much more. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Grace is God’s enabling power, just when we need it.
God, by His grace, seeks us. In His mercy and lovingkindness, He pursues us (Psalm 23:6). In our need, His grace meets us and provides strength and help…if we will receive it.
But if our hands are too full with our own good works, our own righteousness, we can nullify His grace in our lives and fail to live in the good of it. If we keep striving to perform, to achieve and receive the approval of others, we can miss out.
May God help us to live in the good of God’s grace, to let it flow over us with its mighty transforming power. May we receive it, live in the good of it, and let it flow from us to all those around us. May God’s grace and love be so compelling in our lives that others are drawn to Him.
Thank You, Lord Jesus for Your grace that has saved and continually transforms us. Help us to live for Your glory. May we never nullify Your grace, but instead glorify You as we seek to live by faith and in the power of Your grace.