“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.”- Galatians 2:20
Continuing its definition of true faith in question and answer 21, the Heidelberg Catechism teaches that saving faith affirms that “not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation.” In this quote, we have an emphasis on the personal nature of saving faith. It is not enough to believe the abstract truth that Jesus died to save sinners; rather, I can be put into right relationship with my heavenly Father only if I confess my sin, repent, and believe that Christ died to save me.
Galatians 2:20 is one of the proof texts for this aspect of true faith, and it is easy to see why. In this passage, Paul reveals the individualistic character of the kind of faith that leads to salvation, affirming that Jesus loved and died for him personally. The Apostle was confident of his redemption because he was convinced of his personal union with Christ the Savior by faith alone. He realized that he was not born a believer and that he could not rely on the faith of another to get him into the kingdom (see also Phil. 3:2–11).
It is certainly true that our Creator redeems a people for Himself, but we are members of this people by faith alone through grace alone. This has always been the way God deals with humanity. No person is born into the kingdom by way of natural procreation. Before Jesus came, people signified their covenant with God through circumcision. Since our Savior’s resurrection and ascension, people have signified their covenant with the Lord by baptism (Gen. 17; Col. 2:11–12). In neither case, however, have individuals enjoyed the ultimate blessings of covenant favor and reward apart from faith. If we do not personally believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ, we are cut off from the hope of eternal life (Rom. 11:17–24).
John Calvin comments on today’s passage: “It will not be enough for any man to contemplate Christ as having died for the salvation of the world, unless he has experienced the consequences of this death and is enabled to claim it as his own.” Indeed, the Lord works corporately, demonstrating His covenant faithfulness to believers and their children (Acts 2:37–39). But let us never forget that apart from personal faith, we cannot be saved.
Scripture stresses God’s covenantal work through families and in the church to redeem His people. But it also stresses that there is no hope of salvation apart from personal faith in Christ. Are you basing your hope of salvation on being a child of Christian parents, or have you cast yourself on Jesus? Parents, are you trusting that your children are saved merely because they have been baptized, or are you also exhorting them to personally trust in Christ?
Passages for Further Study