Galatians 2:20 KJV
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.
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the churches in Galatia is addressing a rift amongst believers inside the church. The churches were made up of believing Jews and believing Gentiles. The rift had come from those of the believing Jews who wanted to adhere to the law and the prophets, not only amongst themselves but to force others, including the Gentile believers to follow the law as well. Paul even goes as far as pronouncing a curse on those who were adding the law to what was taught them concerning the Gospel. We see further evidence of how deep this rift was when Paul had to confront Peter about these same issues. Once again, Peter had wimped out and blended with the crowd as do so many believers today.
It's imperative that Paul addresses these doctrinal errors and additions before it pollutes the entire body. Paul uses the illustration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to best explain our new position in Christ and in our standing and reconciliation to God. Paul writes in Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ.” What could this possibly mean? Was Paul actually on the cross with Jesus? Was he one of the two thieves crucified that day? Of course, Paul was not physically on the cross with Jesus. But something else far more important that belonged to Paul was on that very same cross that was stained with the blood of Jesus, his sin. Paul’s sin was nailed to that tree, as was yours and mine.
Let’s take a look at some comparisons in Christ’s crucifixion and the crucifixion Paul speaks of. The crucifixion of Jesus was sufficient to remove the punishment for all sin. Our being crucified with Christ removes the punishment for our sin. The crucifixion was a physically painful experience. The removal and abstinence from the sin in our lives can be physically painful. An example would be those who are saved out of an addiction will experience physical withdrawals which can be seen in sweats, shaking and even illnesses. The crucifixion was an extreme emotional and mental experience. In fact, the anticipatory suffering of Christ facing the cross caused Him to sweat great drops of blood, Luke 22:44. The putting aside of our old nature is not as extreme but it is a very difficult task. Still being human, still living in the flesh our old nature still craves fleshy and worldly things. The pursuit of the best house, the best car, the best social standing we battle daily. The crucifixion was the spiritual battle won for all of eternity. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, Ephesians 6:12. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are reborn in our spirit.
Mark 8:34 KJV
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.
Jesus Alludes to the difficulty in battling the flesh as He compares the struggle to the cross He will bear. Paul, in Romans 8:13 says if you continue to live like the old you, chasing the things of what is supposed to be the former you, you will die: but if through the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Putting to death the old man, crucifying the deeds of the flesh is a lifelong battle.
1 Corinthians 15:31 NASB
I affirm, brothers and sisters, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, that I die daily.
Paul, here is describing physical difficulties that he faces as he travels carrying the Gospel. He repeatedly faces physical trials and even death, yet he continues on because he “dies” to this life on a daily basis. Paul submits to the mission given him by Jesus Christ by reckoning his old earthly life dead so that all that can be seen is Jesus Christ living in Paul.
What does being crucified look like today? Let me be clear of this one thing before going on, God sees us as sinlessly perfect right now as He sees us through the blood of His son who, through His crucifixion paid for sin past, present and future. You first must belong to Christ and understand the standard that God desires us to follow. God’s standard is sinless perfection which is unachievable on this side of heaven. While unachievable, there must be a striving to achieve. Think of a gymnast, competing for that perfect 10. What we see is the competition. What we don’t see is the sweat, the tears, the muscle pulls and strains, sometimes broken bones, the rigorous training, and the special dieting that all go to that one chance to make a perfect 10.
There is an inner, daily struggle to leave the old man in the grave. You don’t go to the same places you went before; you don’t listen to the same music you did before, you don’t hang with the same people you did before, you want to, but you don’t. Your actions are to be different to your old desires. This is not easy, it can be a physical, emotional, and spiritual strain because the standard is so high, yet we don’t quit, we continue to fight, we continue to train, we continue to strive to reach that high score. Paul describes the struggle best in 1st Corinthians 9:25-27 using key words and phrases to describe the difficulty.
“Strive” - to struggle, like engaged in an intense athletic contest or warfare
“Self-control” - literally "exercising dominion, from within."
“I fight” - to box ("fistfight"); (figuratively) to engage in spiritual warfare, giving all to be a victor in God's race of faith
“I batter my body” - I strike under the eye, hence: I bruise, treat severely, discipline by hardship, molest, annoy, harass, worry, exhaust the old man
“Into servitude” - to lead as a captive; bring into subjection, fully compliant to the will of the Master.
Being crucified with Christ is no easy task. It takes a godly sorrow about the person that we were, a genuine repentance, a word seldom used in the modern church. Repentance, a turning away from the old you, a putting to death of the old desires.
2 Corinthians 7:10 KJV
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Crucifixion is death, in which the old you is dead and gone. Our position in Christ is life, new life, which is perfectly pictured in believer’s baptism. A burial of the old, going under the water, a rebirth of the new, coming out of the water. Leave the old you buried, start living the new you as the old you is no longer alive. You have been crucified.