Crucified with Christ
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. (Galatians 2:20)
Our reading today is from the epistle of Paul to the Galatians; it is quite a contentious chapter. It addresses the issues presented by certain “Judaizers” insisting on elements of the law (circumcision in particular) being required for salvation rather than the grace of God. What they were doing in effect, was adding to the finished work of salvation by Christ on the cross.
It should have been an obvious error to those who knew the scriptures both historically and spiritually; as we see in Genesis:
After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6)
This comes two chapters and 13 years before the Lord commands circumcision as a sign of the covenant and promise which had already been made.
This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
In Colossians we have a beautiful picture of salvation and conversion which describes it as the circumcision made without hands:
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
In chapter 3 of Galatians Paul goes on to rebuke the churches of Galatia as being foolish; presuming they could be perfected in the flesh rather than through the power of God.
He culminates chapter 2 with verses 20 &21 and for no other reason except to say “I really love this verse” my message today focuses on verse 20.
I don’t think we can over-state the value of this verse. I would even go as far to say that as Christians if there is one verse to live by, this is the one; as such it is a verse to meditate on frequently. It is quite incredible how much meaning the Lord is able to pack into so few words; we see this exemplified in John 3:16 and we also see this principle here. The words of the Lord truly are pure words.
- The Death of Christ Redeems the Life of the Sinner
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live;”
This is the state of the believer: he is dead nevertheless he is alive. Jesus is our substitute and therefore our salvation. It is the vicarious death of Jesus which has wrought our salvation.
[Turn to Mark chapter 8]
Paul is echoing the words of Jesus as we see here in this verse.
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. (Mark 8:34-35)
Here we see the paradox of the gospel: in order to live (in a sense) you must die: that is to say, reckon yourself to be dead; because we were dead in sin (since the wages of sin is death). This is the divine exchange that is made between God and the sinner when he puts his trust in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. Jesus died the death that we deserved so that whosoever believes should not perish but receive everlasting life.
As Spurgeon puts it:
“Christ overcame death in us by overcoming death for us”.
But it is important to note that Paul says “I AM” crucified with Christ and not WAS crucified. Therefore, it is a present and continuous reality for Paul. The old Paul died and as far as he was concerned must continue to be so (dead).
Notice also, we read “crucified”; it is not just any death. It is “the death of the cross” with which Paul is identifying; it is the preaching of the cross which is foolishness to those who are perishing. Yet to those who are saved it is the power of God.
This is why we are warned with regard to a “form of godliness which denies the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) because it is totally or in part reliant on human effort. We see in this verse, the dangers of departing from sound doctrine and the preaching of another gospel; remember Paul is addressing the Church here.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
(2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Within these verses we see the hallmarks of an apostate church; one which has departed from the gospel of Christ which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. This is the power that they deny.
Galatians 2:20 attacks the foolishness of the Galatian Church head-on; making it abundantly clear that it is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ which is the foundation of their faith. Without this truth we have no gospel and as Paul says in
1 Corinthians: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable“.
The word miserable comes from the Latin word for poor and it is a great description for this state of misery. It is certain that without the death, burial and resurrection of Christ we would not nor could not be beneficiaries of the riches of God’s grace. We absolutely would be poor; utterly bankrupt.
Next Paul says: “nevertheless I live”, he is not merely speaking of his physical life. Just as Christ was raised from the dead; so too did Paul have that same expectation to be raised again. Even now any departure from his physical life would have heralded the entrance into the eternal life which he had already received.
In these three words he is declaring his eternal hope.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)
Who wants a new life?
We who were once dead in sin and trespass; (this is the ultimate death sentence), have now been made alive by the grace of God and the power of the gospel. We are alive to God (and Christ). We have been given a new life; this is the ultimate turning over a new leaf.
What does Jesus say?
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)
Just as Paul says “I AM crucified with Christ”, it must also be our present and continuous reality. As believers, because we have died to self, we must also die daily.
This is such a powerfully liberating truth because in that death we are free: free from the punishment for sin, free from the power of sin and one day free from the presence of sin.
In order to fully enjoy this, the old self must remain dead so that the new man can live the victorious Christian life and so that the work of the cross might be effectual. It is only through Christ that this world is crucified unto us and we are crucified unto this world. And the only way we can achieve this is by denying the flesh and feeding the new man; feeding on the word of God.
The challenge for us as believers is that the old man constantly seeks to be revived (brought back to life). If we continually give in to temptation and sin, little by little we revive the old man. If we harden our hearts, little by little our consciences will become seared. This is a terrible state for the believer; sin must continue to be exceeding sinful.
Just as Paul says, “nevertheless I live”, if you know Christ as Saviour you also have that hope of resurrection unto eternal life. This is your confidence and comfort; real hope and real joy.
- The Life of Christ Transforms the Life of the Believer
“yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:”
This is the believer’s sanctification.
Sanctification is the process whereby the believer is made holy. It also denotes a separation or setting apart for the purpose of God; it is the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. The Lord commands us to be holy (Be Ye holy, for I am holy) and it is important to bear this in mind throughout this message because the Lord does not command us to do anything that his grace is not able to accomplish.
That “Christ liveth in me” as Paul says, is not just a lovely thought or a warm fuzzy feeling. It is the truth; the truth on at least 2 levels.
Firstly, Paul boasts in the fact that it is Christ living in him (literally), through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
There is much that can be said about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; we would need eternity to write about it.
In Colossians he is the hope of glory.
In Romans chapter 7 he is the only good in us.
In Romans chapter 8; without him “we are none of his”.
He is the earnest in 2 Corinthians.
He is the comforter in the gospel of John
He leads us into all truth again in John’s gospel.
However in the context of this message and from a theological perspective we need to know that the old man couldn’t be redeemed or rehabilitated; for this reason God created a new man.
This is why salvation is such a miracle and cannot be compared with any other religion that claims to teach the same message. “Teachings” alone cannot change a person (let alone save a person); and yet what we see in Christianity is The Teacher dwelling within the believer.
It is this new man that is united to Christ through the Holy Spirit which in- dwells the born-again believer.
And it is only because of the reality that Christ dwells in the believer that our sanctification is possible. We are changed not by the adherence to a set of rules.
The law, despite being perfect, could not save us but rather taught us that we truly are sinners in need of a Saviour. Therefore we are changed inwardly through the Holy Spirit; our change is from the inside out.
This is why Paul says:
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Ephesians 4:23-24
This union between the believer and the Holy Spirit is the accomplishment of what Jesus prays for in John chapter 17; that the believer would be one with Christ just as He is one with the Father. It is quite incredible to think that we have been invited into that union which exists within the Godhead. This is a reality that many believers easily forget or indeed are ignorant of.
Secondly, just as Christ was living (in Paul) inwardly through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, so too was Christ living in him as an outward expression of his faith. He goes on to qualify this “life” in point #3. It is important to note that without the previous point being true, this second point is not possible (without the Spirit of God dwelling in us, we are none of his).
Paul is very quick to point out that it was now Christ living in him. He had no desire to promote himself or to rob God of his glory. He had already pointed out the fact that he was dead; thus, if he was to continue living, it had to be Christ who lived in him and not himself. To live any other way would be pointless and contrary to the gospel.
The question we need to ask ourselves is this: “Is Christ living in me?” For this to be true firstly we must be born again; we need to be born of and by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we are born again, is it evident that we are followers of Christ. Can people see Christ in us? John the Baptist astutely stated that he had to decrease and that Jesus had to increase. This should be our desire also.
If Christ is not living in you, why not? Has he ever been living in you? Are you different to the unbelievers around you or are you the same as everyone else?
If there is any doubt please examine yourself to see if you are truly in the faith.
If you are genuinely saved and know that you are, then to see Christ live effectively in you three things may be necessary. Remember that we are to be salt and light in this world and not to hide the light which God has put in us.
- There may be need for repentance. Habitual sin will severely inhibit the growth of the believer. It should be our desire to live a victorious Christian life; the old man must die lest we be like dogs returning to our own vomit.
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Timothy 2:19)
We are commanded to neither quench nor grieve the Holy Spirit, with whom we are sealed.
- Daily reading keeps our hearts in tune with the Holy Spirit. It is the word of God which is quick and powerful. If we are to be doers of the word; not hearers only then we must also be readers and meditators on his word.
- Pray: prayer is that time we spend with God and enjoy fellowship with him. It is time we can listen to him speak to our hearts. It is also time we can confess our sins.
- The Faith of Christ is Lived by the Believer
“and the life which I now live in the *flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,”
This is our standard as believers.
*The use of the word flesh does not refer to the sinful nature in this instance; Paul is simply talking about his physical body.
Paul makes the point of saying this is the life that he NOW lives. Remember the list of credentials that he gives in Philippians 3:6 regarding his former life: he says in regard to righteousness which is in the law he was blameless. If anyone was qualified to make a distinction between law and grace, it was definitely Paul. And so, he acknowledges a separation between his old life under the law (which was powerless to change him) and his new life which was in Christ.
It is vitally important to note that Paul says “by the faith OF the Son of God. In modern versions we read: “faith IN the Son of God”.
Faith in Christ is a given; we are saved by faith. But the faith OF the Son of God is a completely different matter: this is the standard according to which we must live.
What was it then that characterized the faith of Christ?
Firstly, it is the perfect standard in which Jesus lived whilst walking this earth; it is the same faith and perfect submission that Jesus had toward the Father: Jesus walked in perfect humility, perfect obedience and perfect wisdom.
We see Christ’s obedience exemplified in his temptation in the wilderness as he resists Satan; using the word of God as his defence.
We see Christ’s humility exemplified through the cross as he says “not my will be done but thine”.
Christ must be our example because it is his image that we are being conformed to. This is God’s purpose for our lives and therefore it is the Lord who provides the means to accomplish this.
This is why words are important: “IN” and “OF” are completely different in their meaning and implications. The use of the word “in” completely undermines the power of the gospel and renders many passages of scripture useless. Paul is acknowledging that it is he who began a good work in him and who would perform it. Therefore he could rest in this; rather than striving to fulfil the requirements of the law in order to be perfected.
Remember also that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Any faith that Paul had was by virtue of the word of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. By stating that it is the “faith of the Son of God”, Paul was in effect declaring his total dependence on Christ to do the work of sanctification in him.
It is no surprise then that in expounding the gospel in Romans, he so early in book states:
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:17)
Like Paul, left to ourselves and without God’s word and Spirit we also would have NO faith. Our dependence also needs to be completely on the Lord. Nevertheless, faith is something which grows; Jesus describes it as a mustard seed which grows into a large tree. God’s word is also described as a seed which bears fruit. God has in effect planted faith in us.
How then do we achieve this: “living by the faith of the Son of God”?
We put off and put on; firstly, we put off the old man and the deeds of the flesh and secondly, we put on Christ and the armour of light. If we compare the deeds of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit, we see the stark distinction between the old man and the new.
[Turn to Galatians 5:19-24]
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
[This is quite an ugly list]
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5:19-24)
By crucifying the flesh we allow God to produce in us virtues rather than vices.
If we look at the armour of God which we are commanded to put on; each piece of armour relates directly to the Lord.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Whether it is truth; Jesus is the truth
Whether it is righteousness; he is our righteousness.
Whether it is faith; it is his faith.
Whether it is salvation; he is our salvation.
Whether it is the word of God; Jesus is the Word.
Whether it is prayer; when we know not what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf.
We brought nothing to the Lord in respect to our salvation and we certainly have nothing to contribute to our sanctification and the increase of our faith. The beautiful thing is that Jesus says we only need to have faith the size of a mustard seed which in time grows into a large tree. The mustard seed is totally dependent on God for the supply of nutrients and rain for growth.
Be mindful however, this does not remove our own accountability to make use of what the Lord has given us.
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3)
We have no excuse not to grow.
Itinerant preacher, Vance Havner summed up spiritual growth in three steps: Food, Rest and Exercise. That is: Feed on the word, rest in the Lord and exercise your faith.
- The Love of Christ Demonstrated through His Sacrifice
“who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
This is the believer’s testimony.
Paul brings us full circle as we come back to the cross; how else did Christ love him and give himself for him, but on the cross.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
Paul clearly knew he was a sinner before he came to Christ and as God worked in his life more and more; the more he realised how much of a sinner he was; even calling himself the chief of sinners.
He deeply personalizes this truth by saying “loved ME” and “gave himself for ME“. This is important because God has revealed himself as a personal God and not an impersonal force; he is intimately concerned with his entire creation.
The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
An impersonal force cannot love; in fact, we know that God is LOVE. It is intrinsic to his nature. And therefore, it stands to reason that if we have a personal God, we also have a personal Saviour.
Paul gives his testimony numerous places in scripture. He tells us of his zealous persecution of Christians. He tells us of his conversion on the road to Damascus. He tells us of his own wretchedness as a believer, in not being able to do the things he wants to do.
It is clear from this verse that God’s love for him underpins everything which he states before and is why he emphasises a Personal Saviour. If we have a personal Saviour, then it also stands to reason that he demands a PERSONAL response.
The amazing thing about this part of our verse is that is so closely echoes John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son”. Even more amazing is that the first mention of love in the entire bible is a wonderful picture of the gospel.
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. Genesis 22:21-22
It is fitting therefore that love is inseparably connected to the gospel as evidenced and communicated in his word.
And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. Genesis 22:8
Some 2000 years later we see Jesus who is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world, completely fulfil the role which Isaac played but only in part.
Hebrews gives us further insight as we read:
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
We know that love is a powerful motivator and here we see the love of the Father for his fallen creation; the fact that it is undeserved makes it all the more profound and the greatest love you will ever experience. If you know the Lord as Saviour, you also are able to concur with Paul and acknowledge that Christ also died for YOUR sins. This is your testimony also; and it is powerful one. When sharing the gospel with others, a person may not believe the bible but it is hard to refute the visible work that God has done and continues to do in your life.
The very reason we celebrate the Lord’s Supper is to remember his sacrificial death. What is that we read in 1 Corinthians 11:26?
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 1Co 11:26
We know that prior to conversion we were incapable of loving God. It wasn’t until we realized that God had demonstrated his love for us first and then accepted Christ’s sacrifice as payment for our sins, that we could love him in return.
This is the basis for our love for God:
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Before Christ our love was squarely centred on the world and all its attractions and amusements; and even as Christians there are times when we are not separated for the cause of Christ. Somehow, we would rather maintain our friendship with the world and only casually acknowledge the love which has been lavished on us through the death of Christ. Remember to love means to obey.
The more we meditate on the truth of the gospel and the unmerited grace and mercy with which God has lavished on us, the more our hearts should respond to the Lord.
We are not talking simply about cold hard facts but rather a continued and personal response to God’s love. Remember we have a personal Saviour who met our deepest need and more.
This highlights the need to remain in his word and allow his word to change our hearts as we read about his goodness and mercy; “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”.
Knowing God’s love for us; the bible tells us that we ought to be perfected in that love.
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. (1 John 2:5)
That’s the ultimate challenge because true love dies to self and wants God’s best for the others.
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain”. (Galatians 2:21)
Paul revisits the argument regarding the law and with this last verse, he nails the door shut on any discussion that would entertain the possibility of being right with God (and therefore access his grace) through any other means except through the death burial and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Remember that Paul is speaking predominantly to believers. As believers, if we are to continue in his grace then it must be by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross and not to trust own goodness. Paul is diligent in rooting out false doctrine; his greatest desire is for the spread of the gospel and for souls to be saved (Incidentally it should be our greatest desire also). For this reason, doctrine is important.
This is the beauty of the gospel. Our best efforts to live according to a set of rules is totally insufficient to meet God’s perfect criteria for heaven. Yet Christ fulfilled the law (meeting that perfect criteria) as well as being our sin bearer (took the punishment we deserve).
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Christ took on our sin and its punishment so that we could be imputed with God’s righteousness.
It sounds simple and it is: But sadly, most people would rather avoid the ugly truth that they are wretched sinners and cover their own sins by various means; this is a suppressing or appeasing (through their own deeds) of conscience and at best self-righteousness. But we are clearly told in this verse that righteousness is NOT attained this way.
This is what it means to frustrate or hinder the grace of God. The end result (or at least one of them) is a lack of peace!! Yet, if we surrender to God and accept his provision for our salvation we have peace with him. The gospel is good news for the sinner not bad news.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
The only way to access the grace of God is by faith; again, not doing so is to frustrate the grace of God. There is no way to escape the truth of Jesus; to have access implies to gain entrance. If there is an entry then it implies a door or a gate; Jesus is that door and it is by him that we enter.
Through obedience to the gospel, Christ is not dead in vain. And yet there are many who would make the crucifixion of our Lord worthless; for all the reasons aforementioned.
Even as believers it might be evident that Christ’s death was in vain if we are not depending on God’s grace to live each and every day. It is worthwhile examining our day (our motives and actions) and seeing how often we seek the Lord for guidance or how often we thank him for the smallest things or even just to be still and know that he is God and we are not. It is only then that we might realize whether the Lord is truly in control and that we are not running our own lives.
I pray that this message has struck a chord with believer and unbeliever alike. There were some definite challenges but there were also many blessings which come from the truth of God’s word. The greatest blessing is being right with God; as David puts it:
A Psalm of David, Maschil.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. Psalm 32:1-2
Finally, to the unbeliever:
Any discussion with regard to the gospel of grace must include the mercy of God. The grace and mercy of God are two sides of the same coin. Grace is defined as the undeserved favour of God, whereas by mercy we do not receive what we deserve.
God has always desired mercy and thus by virtue of the gospel the sinner is able to obtain mercy and forgiveness of sins and avoid the just penalty for their sins. God is not willing that any perish.
In Psalms we read:
Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
There is an intimate connection between truth and mercy and with righteousness and peace. Unless these things are reconciled with each other they stand apart; separated as it were: just like sin separates us from God.
Yet if you let God to be true you allow the mercy of God to take effect in your life. Through the blood of Christ, you can have peace with God and his righteousness is imputed or bestowed upon you.
Let us pray