YPS Magazine

ISSUE: 2019, Volume 16, Issue 1

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Paul’s I am Series

by Andrew Dutton, Liverpool, England

‘I am crucified with Christ’, Gal. 2. 20

 

Many Christians love to quote Galatians chapter 2 verse 20, particularly the part that speaks of the ‘Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me’. What an encouraging, yet amazing little phrase; to think of the love and sacrificial giving of the Lord Jesus for Paul! Today, however, like countless other believers since this letter to the Galatian Christians was written, we are thankful that we can identify with Paul and claim this love and sacrificial, substitutionary giving for ourselves.

 

Perhaps the first part of the verse, where Paul states, ‘I am crucified with Christ’, is not quoted as often. It is this vital personal truth that we shall consider. In order to get the full weight of the statement, let us first consider the background to Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

 

Galatians – Paul’s reason for writing

In Galatia, the gospel was under attack. ‘Another gospel’, 1. 16, was being proclaimed, which added the works of the law to faith in Christ as a requirement for salvation. In his response to this attack, Paul covers the following in chapter 2:

  • Disagreement at Antioch, vv. 11-14 – Peter, though previously happy to have fellowship with Gentile believers, withdrew himself, ‘fearing them which were of the circumcision’. Peter was allowing himself and other believers to be influenced by the works of the law. Paul publicly tackled Peter, and condemned those that ‘walked not uprightly . . . to the truth of the gospel’. 
  • Justification by faith, vv. 15, 16 – Because of the disagreement, Paul teaches what it means to be justified by faith. To be justified is to be ‘declared righteous’ by God; all guilt removed, and this because of God’s grace. Those that are justified have ‘believed in Jesus Christ’; justification is through ‘faith in Jesus Christ’. It is all because of Jesus Christ. No one could ever be justified through keeping the works of the law.
  • The name of Christ defended, v. 17 – Paul emphasizes his teaching by showing that adding the demands of the law is an attack on the gospel and an insult to the person of Christ.

 

Paul’s conclusion is, ‘I . . . am dead to the law, that I might live unto God’, v. 19. Paul had died to the law, because the Lord Jesus had taken the punishment of the law. Therefore, the law could have no claim over Paul; he had no responsibility to keep it, because he was living a new life free from it.

 

‘I am crucified with Christ’ – the meaning for Paul

Paul reaches the climax of his teaching: ‘I am crucified with Christ’, v. 20. 

 

To be crucified was the outcome of judgement; it was a punishment that resulted in death. When the Lord Jesus was crucified, He was under the judgement of God for human sin. He died for sins, bearing our punishment for the broken law of God. The old Paul, or Saul as he was, who tried to live so carefully by the law, Phil. 3. 5, 6, yet sinned terribly, Acts 7. 58, was associated with Christ in His death.

Paul was saying, ‘When Christ died, I died’.

 

‘I am crucified with Christ’ – the meaning for me

Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ can join with Paul and state with certainty, ‘I am crucified with Christ’, v. 20. Though still alive as a person, I am not the old me; ‘Yet not I’, Paul says, ‘but Christ liveth in me’. Life is no longer about me, my desires, my ambition, my will, but about Christ. He is Lord and ought to have full control. Through obedience, my life should bring glory to Him.

 

Paul recognizes though that ‘in the flesh’, the earthly body full of weakness, power is required to enjoy the full potential of Christ living within. The Son of God is the source of this power, through faith, every day. Living a life to please God is not achieved by striving to keep the law, but by living in dependence upon Christ, the Son of God.

 

There is a great challenge about Paul’s teaching. On the one hand, ‘I am crucified with Christ’; I have died with Christ and the law has no jurisdiction over me. The old ‘me’ no longer exists and I now live a new life with Christ in me. My old will has gone and the Lord Jesus has full control of my life. These statements are absolute and based on the death of the Lord Jesus at the cross. 

 

On the other hand, however, my old ambition, my tendency to sin and live independently of the Lord Jesus crops up so often that sometimes I don’t live in full enjoyment of these great truths. 

Today, may I not only be thankful for all that Christ’s death accomplished, but also live in total dependence upon the Lord Jesus, and enjoy the blessings of Christ living in me, that He might have the glory. 

 

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