As noted in part 1 of this series, in the Higher Life movement, the doctrine that Christ lives the Christian life, while the believer simply passively trusts or abides, is the “Christ-life”; “The Christian life is a large, generous Christ-life that lives itself” (pg. 181, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago: Revell, 1874; cf. pgs. 158, 168). Galatians 2:20 is employed to affirm that Christ lives the Christian life instead of the believer, or at least the believer who enters into the Higher Life or the Christ-life. It is difficult to figure out what the meaning is of such an affirmation; it would seem to lead to either the heresy of the absolute perfection of the believer in his will, nature and in all his acts, for Christ considered in His human nature is absolutely perfect in His will, nature and His acts, or to the heresy that Christ fails and Christ sins when the believer sins, since, allegedly, Christ, not the believer, is living the believer’s life.
One cannot avoid these heretical implications by simply affirming that the believer fails to perfectly access the Lord Jesus’ personal life, and for this cause the Christian still sins, for this accessing of Christ must be part of the Christian life—indeed, according to the advocates of the view that the Lord Jesus lives the Christian life, accessing the Savior is the essence of Christian life. How then, can Christ fail to do this accessing for the believer, but be the One who lives the Christian life? Yet further, what can such a notion possibly mean—is Christ accessing Himself as He allegedly lives the Christian life? The idea that Jesus Christ lives the Christian life, not the Christian, has other severe problems as well; for example, the Lord Jesus, as He is in heaven, does not live by faith, as He has personal sight of all the glory of God, so the Christian on earth would not have to live by faith. Indeed, the idea that the Lord Jesus lives the Christian life instead of the believer is either abominable heresy or mystical gobbledygook that cannot be given any clear propositional content. It certainly does not help the believer live a holy life.
Hannah W. Smith, while usually restricting sinless perfection to the human spirit, so that she did not quite reach a claim of the literal perfection of Christ that was the necessary consequence of her Higher Life theology, did nevertheless affirm that those who have had the “definite experience” of “a heart made pure by faith” are “created pure and holy” so that “temptations will come” only “from without,” not from within—an idea, however contrary to the Bible, that makes it much easier to follow the guidance and revelations of an Inner Voice—at least until they cease the moment-by-moment Higher Life walk, at which time, somehow, “nothing but impurity remains,” although “the carnal nature” had “been cast out” at the time of the second blessing. She did, however, have to confront the question, “How can we sin if we are made and kept pure in heart?” a question to which she had only a very unsatisfactory answer (see Letter to Anna, September 6, 1871, reproduced in the entries for June 17-18 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter; cf. the entry for June 22).
Happily, since Galatians 2:20 never states that Christ lives the Christian life instead of the believer, Kewick theology has any support whatsoever from the text. First, one notes that the verse does not distinguish between an upper class of Christians who have entered into a Higher Life or second blessing and a lower class who have not done so. Galatians 2:20 is true for every Christian, and every Christian has Christ as his life, is legally dead to sin, and has his life hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3, 4).
What does Galatians 2:20 actually affirm? 1.) Paul was crucified with Christ, 2:20a. 2.) Nevertheless, he was spiritually alive; the apostle had spiritual life, that he “might live unto God,” Galatians 2:19; 2:20b. 3.) The “I” who was now alive was not the same “I” as before Paul’s conversion (cf. Romans 7:17), in that Paul was no longer an ungodly, unregenerate person, a natural man and a slave of the old covenant, as he was when he was under the law (Galatians 2:19). He was now dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:10-11). The good in his life was not sourced in himself, but in the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10). He now had a new principle within him and was a new man, Galatians 2:20c. 4.) Christ now indwelt Paul, and was the source of spiritual life and strength for him, 2:20d. 5.) The Apostle now lived his natural life in his body by faith in Christ, 2:20e. 6.) Christ loved Paul, and died for him, 2:20f.
What about “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”? Surely this phrase teaches that Christ lives the Christian life, no? The phrase will be examined in part 3 of this series.
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