Does Jesus Christ live the Christian life for the Christian--the Christ-life--or does the Christian live the Christian life empowered by Jesus Christ? The former is the Keswick position, the latter the Scriptural one. Galatians 2:20 is the text that is supposed to prove that Jesus Christ lives the Christian life for the believer:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Before an exegetical examination of this passage is undertaken, the historical development of the Keswick view from the preaching of Hannah W. Smith will be examined. As a Quaker, Mrs. Smith thought that she had a Divine Seed within her--Jesus Christ. The Quaker Divine Seed heresy and its related heresies of the Inner Light, Quietism, and mysticism constitute the basis for the Keswick misinterpretation of Galatians 2:20. Mrs. Smith wrote: “[H]ow few realize that as to themselves they are dead, and it is only Christ who is alive, and they in Him!” and affirming that the Inner Voice only gives “certain guidance” when one has recognized this secret (Letter to Abby, August 20, 1865, cf. Journal, July 22, 1859, reproduced in the entries for February 3 & January 19 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter). “[W]e Quakers” can say to one another, “do not expect . . . ever to find yourself any better . . . [y]ou yourself will always be utterly vile, and ignorant, and corrupt, but Jesus is your life now. It is with you ‘no more I’ but Christ who lives in you. And isn’t this glorious to lose your own life and find Christ’s divine life put in its place” (Letter to Frank, May 30, 1871, reproduced in the entry for June 6 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter). She knew that Christ was “not only the One who gives me life, but the one who lives it too . . . it is no more I who live but Christ who lives in me,” so that since “Jesus is our life, of course our only work must be to keep from living our own life and let[ting] His life work in us. . . . [We are to] reckon ourselves dead and alive only in Christ. . . . Is our new nature anything more than Christ in us?” Thus, “I am dead, and . . . the only life I have now is His life,” as she “by faith claim[s] His life as [her] own” and became “passive of choice and willingly” (Journal, 1867; Letter to Sister Mary, 1867; Letter to Mary, March 8, 1867, Letter to Priscilla Mounsey, March 15, 1874; Letter to Daughter, May 25, 1878, reproduced in the entries for February 24, 26, 27, July 10, & August 26 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter; cf. also the entries for March 1, 3). Thus, that “He would live my life for me” is “a genuine Quaker experience I am sure . . . a truth which the early Friends, and especially George Fox, rejoiced in . . . the secret of all their lives of devotedness and power . . . the secret of holiness” (Letter to Mother, March 18, 1867, reproduced in the entry for March 7 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter). “[W]e are dead, really and truly dead, and the only life we have is ‘Christ living in us.’ . . . [W]e have no more independence of being . . . apart from Christ” (Letter to a Friend, March 27, 1867, reproduced in the entry for March 8, ibid). “I am sure the early Friends [Quakers] understood this, and when they spoke of ‘the Seed’ & ‘the Light’ etc. they meant Christ” (Letter to a Friend, Mary 28, 1867, reproduced in the entry for March 9, ibid; cf. the entry for March 10 & April 1). Thus, Mrs. Smith preached her Quaker quietism in sanctification based on her view of Galatians 2:20: “It is your own trying to live your life that is the greatest hinderance. Stop this, and let His life live in you . . . let Him be your indwelling life[.] . . . Then it will be easy to live right . . . no effort to live. . . . You are trying to live, and your life is nearly strangled with the effort. Give up trying, and let Christ, who is your life, live in you, and you will live easily and without effort” (pgs. 70-71, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago: Revell, 1874).
Hannah Smith’s teaching on Galatians 2:20 became that of the Broadlands Convention and its successors, the Oxford, Brighton, and Keswick Conventions; thus, those at the first Broadlands Convention heard: “I know that Christ lives in me] . . . recognize that it is Christ and not I that lives in the soul” (pg. 121, Memorials [of William Francis Cowper-Temple, Baron Mount-Temple], Georgina Cowper-Temple). Broadlands knew that “the Christ-life” is present in all men because “Christ is the life of men, the Divine seed in every one” (pg. 178, The Life that is Life Indeed: Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson. London: James Nisbet & Co, 1910); the Christ-life is simply the Quaker doctrine of the Divine Seed. An important proclamation of Broadlands from the first was that “it is Christ and not I that lives in the soul” (pg. 134, The Life that is Life Indeed: Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson. London: James Nisbet & Co, 1910). At Broadlands Mr. and Mrs “Temple [experienced] great joy as the result of this meeting [where] many [came to live] . . . the heavenly life . . . Christ’s life . . . Christ Himself . . . living in these [bodily] tabernacles a supernatural life” (pgs. 130, 125, Memorials [of William Francis Cowper-Temple, Baron Mount-Temple], Georgina Cowper-Temple). The Keswick and Higher Life leader Evan Hopkins relates that he learned from the catalyst of the Keswick Higher Life movement, Hannah W. Smith’s husband Robert Pearsall Smith, that “Christ . . . would live in him His own holy life” (pg. 159, So Great Salvation, by Steven Barabas; pg. 15, The Keswick Story: The Authorized History of the Keswick Convention, Polluck). Mr. Smith taught Hopkins that Christ “would do all, and would live in [the Christian] His Own Holy Life—the only Holy Life possible to us” (pgs. 52-55, Evan Harry Hopkins: A Memoir, Alexander Smellie; italics in original.). Indeed, as Robert P. Smith preached at the Brighton Convention, “Christ . . . is living His life in us . . . Christ’s own glorious life in Heaven is to be lived down here in these poor, mortal bodies,” based on Galatians 2:20—a doctrine which Mr. Smith associated with the Pentecostal precursor, the Faith Cure. Thus, Smith taught that those who experience the Christ-life “will have power to work all [their] days for the Lord Jesus” and “will not wear . . . out” but “live as children do,” their “youth . . . renew[ed] . . . like the eagle’s” (pg. 338, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875. Brighton: W. J. Smith, 1875; cf. pg. 84 for Mrs. Smith’s preaching of the Christ-life; cf. also pgs. 118, 152, 220, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago: Revell, 1874.).
William Boardman likewise taught that Galatians 2:20 teaches that “Christ . . . [is] dwelling in [the believer] to do His work, and to live His life in and by them,” and since Christ is the one who is living, not the believer, and Christ is perfectly holy and healthy, based on Galatians 2:20 “[m]en and women [can be] . . . so used by the Spirit, that He can use them as the Father used the Son, and as the Son used His apostles,” so “that He might use them in defeating the devil in the souls and bodies of all who are willing to hear and heed the Word,” in a flourishing ministry of Higher Life sanctification and Pentecostal healing (pgs. 225-226, Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman, Mrs. Boardman), a belief which permeated the later Keswick and Pentecostal movements.
Jessie Penn-Lewis wrote: “Galatians 2:20 . . . ‘No longer I’ is the very central point of deliverance . . . the man himself retiring . . . to make room for the Risen Christ to dwell in him and live his life for him! . . . This is the deliverance of Calvary . . . it draws the believer . . . out of sight into the crucified Lord, making way for the Christ Himself to possess the earthen vessel and manifest His life and power” (pgs. 66-70, Pg. 74, The Warfare With Satan, Jessie Penn-Lewis).
A. B. Simpson wrote: “[The believer’s] life has been superseded by the very life of Christ Himself. ‘Not I,’ nay, not even the new and heaven-born I, but ‘the Christ that liveth in me.’ . . . [T]he Christ who lived of old is living again in me, thinking in my thoughts; choosing in my will; trusting in my faith; loving in my heart; triumphing in my victories, and covering my insufficiency with His glorious all-sufficiency. . . . Are we living the Christ life rather than trying to live a Christian life?” (“Spiritual Talismans” (Alliance Weekly, June 14, 1919, 178-179).
Watchman Nee preached that “the secret of the overcoming life . . . is to let Christ live in our stead, according to Paul’s testimony in Galatians 2:20” (pg. 131, Watchman Nee: A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age, by Witness Lee); indeed, Nee went to the point of affirming that Christ is the one who not only lives instead of the believer, but that Christ believes instead of the believer: “When we believe and receive the Son of God, not only His life but His faith too enters into us. Hence we may live by His faith” (pg. 29, God’s Plan and the Overcomers, Watchman Nee. New York, NY: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1977).
Modern Keswick advocate John R. Van Gelderen writes:
Keswick . . . was for the deepening of spiritual life. To accomplish this purpose a definite theological position was taught—sanctification by faith, sometimes called holiness by faith. The focus of the theology was on Christ as one’s life. This was sometimes called ‘The Higher Life’ or ‘The Deeper Life’ or ‘The Victorious Life.’ . . .[T]he ‘Higher Life’ . . . is a Life. That Life is a Person, and His name is Jesus! Jesus is the ‘Higher Life.’ Jesus is the ‘Deeper Life.’ Jesus is the ‘Victorious Life.’ How can it be otherwise? Sanctification or holiness by faith is simply accessing the ‘Holy Life’ by faith. It is ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me . . . by faith’ (Gal. 2:20). Holiness by faith is accessing the Holy Life of Jesus to empower holy living and serving. . . . Keswick teaches that just as justification is by faith, so also sanctification is by faith. . . . Faith for victory means you are depending on the victorious Life of Christ to enable you to obey. It is not a matter of you trying to live the Christian life . . . Jesus Christ is the only one who can live the Christian life! Jesus is the Christian Life. . . . Jesus is the Victorious Life, the Higher Life, the Deeper Life, the Spirit-filled Life, the Revived Life, the Hidden Life,—the Christ-Life! To us, when holiness by faith—the Holy Life accessed by faith—is attacked, the attack is ultimately on the indwelling Life of Christ” (“Keswick: A Good Word or a Bad One?” ).
Van Gelderen wrote elsewhere:
Receiving the Holy Life of Jesus opens the way for accessing the Holy living of Jesus. . . . The Lord Jesus, the Holy One, moved into you at salvation to live His life, not yours. . . . The Christian life is a life—a person—and His name is Jesus. Jesus Christ is the Christian Life. Therefore, no one can live the Christian life but Christ. . . . Christ [is] the Christian Life Himself . . . [and He] moved in to impart to you that very life so that you can live, yet not you, but Christ in you, the Christian life. . . . [T]here is hope for holiness by means of the Holy One living out His holy life in and through you. . . . [H]oliness is not something you accomplish but rather that which you allow . . . a matter of dependence on the one whom you are allowing to work His holiness in and through you. . . . Faith is the one thing you can do . . . faith is not a work[.] . . . Personal holiness is not imitating moral motions. Personal holiness is accessing the Person of holiness by faith to live His holy life through your personality. . . . The provision for holiness is perfect. It has to be—His name is Jesus. It is our consistent access of Him that is sadly imperfect. (pg. 14, “Holiness by Faith in Jesus,” by John R. Van Gelderen. Revival magazine, Issue 12 (2011). Germantown, WI: Revival Focus Ministries, Inc.)
The Keswick affirmation that when one is “filled with the Holy Spirit . . . the Holy Spirit has absolute possession and control of our spirit. . . . [The] human personality . . . is . . . controlled by a divine personality; . . . the human personality is brought under the domination and control of the Holy Spirit” (pgs. 143-144, So Great Salvation, Barabas) appears to provide the third Person of the Trinity the same sort of “absolute . . . control” of the human personality that is ascribed to Christ when it is affirmed that the Son of God lives the Christian life instead of the believer.
Thus, a plain trajectory exists from the Quaker teaching of Hannah W. Smith on Galatians 2:20 to the modern Keswick movement. But is their view of Galatians 2:20 supported by the actual exegesis of the passage?
See here for this entire study.