Preaching crucifixion and resurrection
Over recent months I’ve posted occasionally here on Galatians, although I’d forgive you for not noticing as it’s been very occasional. Galatians is a letter which in various contexts I’ve kept coming back to. One thing I’ve particularly been helped to see is the way that cross and resurrection are held together in the letter.
That’s seen in the ‘top and tail’ of Galatians. It begins with an explicit mention of the resurrection (‘God the Father, who raised him from the dead’, 1.1), followed by the cross (‘Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age’, 1.4). At the end of the letter we get the two again, but now in the order cross-resurrection: ‘the world has been crucified to me and I to the world’ (6.14), followed straight after by ‘what counts is the new creation’ (6.15), a clear allusion to resurrection. In other words, at the top and tail of Galatians, we find (as it were) cross-language enclosed within resurrection language, with the two linked closely together. The opening speaks of them in terms of what Christ does for us; at the end, it’s expressed as what Christ does in us.
We get something similar in the famous verse 2.20: ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’ There’s crucifixion in the first phrase, and immediately Christ who is alive in the second phrase.
A couple of short-ish books by Richard Gaffin have particularly helped me to see this: Resurrection and Redemption and By Faith, Not By Sight. Gaffin is a fine scholar, who reckons that our union with Christ in his resurrection is at the heart of Paul’s understanding of salvation – without at all denying how crucial the atoning work of the cross is. Many folks, if asked about ‘the heart of salvation’, would go to cross rather than resurrection, and that for some good and understandable reasons. And then (stereotypically) we perhaps rather tack the resurrection on at the end. But maybe, at least in Galatians, cross and resurrection are different aspects, in profoundly linked ways, of God’s one glorious act of salvation in Christ, both for us and in us.