You Need to Die (Galatians, Part 22)
This week we continue exploring the book of Galatians using a question-and-answer format.
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
How have Christians been “crucified with Christ”?
The Bible teaches that human beings are so broken, so enslaved to things that bring us death, so far off from God, that it is like being dead. Listen to what Paul says to Christians in Ephesians 2:1-3: “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins…. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature.” So before these people became Christians, they were enslaved to their desires for things that were not good for them, and they could not experience the life of God. They were basically dead.
So what needs to happen to us, since our natural self (the one we were born with) is dead and unfeeling towards God, is that our “old self” needs to die so that a “new self” can takes its place. This is what Paul says has happened to us when we trusted in Jesus and were united to him. He says in Romans 6:6 that “our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives.” Therefore, he goes on to say, “we are no longer slaves to sin.”
So to be “crucified with Christ,” then, means that when Jesus died, all who are made one with him by trusting and loving him actually have died with him, so that the parts of us that were bringing us death and misery could be done away with for good. People don’t just need a makeover or a “sprucing up.” Some parts of us are so corrupt that they need to die. And once we are united to Christ and participate (in some mysterious way) in his violent crucifixion, those evil parts of us are killed to make way for something new.
So if we have died with Jesus, how can we come to life again?
We come to life again after death because Jesus came to life again after death. Just as Jesus took us with him when he died, he also took us with him when he was resurrected. Paul says in Ephesians 2:6 that God has “raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” That last part is crucial: he has raised us from the dead because we are united with Jesus.
What does Paul mean when he says that “Christ lives in me”?
This is probably a reference to the Holy Spirit which lives in all of God’s people. Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of his [the Father’s] Son” in Galatians 4:6 and “the Spirit of Christ” in Romans 8:9. The Father, Son, and Spirit are so unified that we can use the terms “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ” interchangeably, and we can describe with equal truthfulness how the Spirit of God lives in his people by saying “the Spirit lives in me” or (as Paul says here) “Christ lives in me”.
Of course, this is a perfect time for him to mention the Spirit of Christ living in him, because it is the Spirit which enables God’s people to say “no” to sin and “yes” to obedience (see Ezekiel 36:25-27). The Spirit is the One who enables us to turn away from our former lives and embrace the new life of the kingdom which Jesus has brought us into!