Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Whatever did Paul mean by this statement? As you read his epistles you gather that he saw himself as being in a faith–union with Christ, so that what happened to Christ, happened to Him. It is the same for all those who are “in Christ” and who were “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:3). This includes their being crucified with Christ, dying with Him, being buried with Christ in baptism, being raised with Christ and being seated with Christ in the heavenly places.
Paul meant then in Galatians 2:20, that he had come to the end of his old life (“crucified with Christ”) in which he was living his life apart from Christ. As a new creation in Christ he had turned from his old life with all its privileges and sin and had turned to Christ to embrace Him as Saviour and Lord. It was as though the old Paul had been crucified. His old life with all its angst against Jesus and his followers had come to an end and he was now a new man with new attitudes. But before we go on to explore the newness of the new life, we need to look at a bit longer at what this crucifixion with Christ means.
In this verse 20 Paul used the word (sustauróō) a compound word derived from (sun = with ) and (stauroṓ = crucify) to denote this crucifixion with Christ. But it is helpful to see that it is in the perfect tense in the Greek original. That tense signifies a past action with a present abiding result. It is as though Paul is saying that his radical change in life was a permanent redirection of his life. It was as though the old Paul (or the Paul of old) had come to the end of his former way of living. He saw himself as having been crucified with Christ and would always remain crucified with Him, for ever.
Romans 6:6. We gain more insight when we see how this phrase (“crucified with’) is used elsewhere in Paul’s writings. For example in Romans 6:6 Paul wrote, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin”. This is a bit more specific. Paul described what was crucified as being “our old self.” The phrase is (palaios anthrōpos) which is literally, “the old man”. We might describe it as “the person I once used to be” or “what I was of old”. Again the word is (sustauróō) for “crucified with”. This time Paul is speaking in the plural, “we”. It is in the aorist tense that denoted a past action, but it was an action that had impacted significantly on the believers.
Paul adds to this, the purpose and the result of that crucifixion with Christ. The crucifixion was to break the power of sin in believers’ lives, “that the body of sin might be brought to nothing”. The “body of sin” of course refers to human bodies capable of committing sin. The human bodies of the believers had lost the power they once had to enslave believers to sin. Why? Because a new and greater power had come upon them when they received the promised Holy Spirit into their lives. The believers now had a choice. They could walk in their old ways or they could walk in the new way of the Spirit. Paul gives the result of that empowering, “so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin”. A new power had enabled new choices. They had been inwardly motivated to make the right choices. As they continued to live by faith in that way, it would mean that their body of sin was no longer victorious in their lives. Or as Paul wrote in the next verse, Rom 6:7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Galatians 5:24. A similar expression is used in this verse to describe the victory in believers’ lives over sin. Paul wrote, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” The term “the flesh” is used to describe many things in Paul’s writings. However here it seems to refer to fallen human nature characteristic of all peoples, as the following words indicate, “with its passions and desires”. The flesh no longer governed the life of the believer for as Paul shows in the next verse, they could be governed by the Spirit, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”5:25. The Spirit could lead believers to walk in God’s ways and could also empower them to do so. The Spirit enabled them to have victory over the flesh as they continued to walk in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 6:14. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” In this verse there is a change in wording though the essential message is the same as in the above verses. Here the word is simply (stauroṓ = crucify). There are two crucifixions mentioned. The first crucifixion mentioned in the verse is the crucifixion of the world to Paul. The attraction of the world to Paul had been broken. It no longer had the power over him it had had in the past. The second crucifixion was the crucifixion of Paul to the world. He had changed though the world had not. He had been strengthened through his conversion and by receiving the Spirit of God into his life to be able to resist the lure of the world.
Paul was not boastful of his new attitude to the world or of his victory over sin. He simply boasted that the change had been wrought through what Christ had done on the cross and to his commitment to the victory attained there, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”. That has been the boast of every believer ever since! Jesus’ victory on the cross brings victories into the lives of His people as they continue to trust in Him
Blog No.154. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Friday 25th July 2014
Amazon Kindle books authored by Jim Holbeck:
- The Searching And Knowing God Who Loves And Cares: Reflections on Psalm 139.
- The Godly Reward for True Humility. Studies in St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.
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