Christ And Me
“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)
Paul has already shown us that if he were to rebuild those things which he once destroyed, that is, if he were to return to the Pharisaic teaching of salvation by legal works, he would be a transgressor, because he would be acting contrary to his deepest convictions based on his past experience. To this he adds that such action would also destroy the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross. Paul had experienced such faith in Christ crucified as to thoroughly replace any confidence he ever had in human merit. This is the connection of verses 20 and 21 to the rest of chapter two.
Paul introduces his declaration of oneness with Christ by this statement: “I am crucified with Christ.” What a baffling assertion! Here is the great Apostle to the Gentiles, at the love feast at Antioch, addressing an audience, which consisted of both Jewish and Gentile believers. Peter and Barnabas were in the congregation. Undoubtedly some of those false brethren who caused so much dissension over the law of Moses were still there as well. At this meeting place there was a deplorable situation. Strong cliques had developed, and segregation was being practiced. Jews were eating exclusively with Jews, leaving Gentile believers no other alternative than to eat with other Gentiles. This violation of the principle of the “oneness” of all believers in Christ had been caused by Peter’s dissimulation. He and the Judaizers were behaving as though the cross of Christ had been of no avail in taking down the middle wall of partition between them and the Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-22).
With this as the background, Paul declares, “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.” He has asserted clearly and boldly that no man was ever to be justified by his own works, however righteous they may be, but only by Christ. Now he brings his doctrine to its culmination and practical application in these ringing words, “I am crucified with Christ.” Something marvelous had taken place, rendering Paul a justified man, which had an eternally abiding significance.
What Paul here declares of himself is true of all God’s elect. All of God’s elect are in such union with Christ that his righteousness, his life, his death, and his resurrection are theirs. Everything our Savior was and is, everything he did and experienced as a man as our Mediator is ours and we have done in him.
“I am crucified with Christ”—Obviously, Paul is describing something altogether spiritual. He was not literally, physically crucified with Christ. Christ was crucified for him in his room and stead. He was crucified with him and in him as his Mediator, Surety, Substitute and Representative. Paul is not describing a present experience, but a finished work. This phrase would be better translated—“I have been crucified with Christ.” He is not talking about self-crucifixion. He is not talking about self-mortification. He is not talking about something he had experienced, but about something done for him by Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ was and is forever the Representative of all his people. All that he did and suffered was in their name and on their account. When he obeyed the law of God for us, we obeyed the law in him. When he suffered the unmitigated wrath of God for us and died under the penalty of his holy law, we suffered and died in him, representatively. When he was buried, we were buried. When he arose, we arose. When he took his seat in heaven, we were seated with him (Eph. 2:5-6).
When our Mediator was crucified, all our sins, the whole body of them, were laid upon him. He bore them in his own body on the cursed tree, and bore them away. He destroyed and made an end of them. He put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:26). He has blotted them out, removed them from us as far as the east is from the west, and cast them into the infinitely deep sea of divine forgetfulness, so that they shall never be remembered by our God against us again forever!
This was done when Christ died and we died in him. In regeneration (sanctification) we are delivered from the dominion of sin by the grace and power of God the Holy Spirit. By the power and efficacy of Christ’s accomplishments at Calvary, the world is crucified to us and we to the world in the experience of grace. But we were crucified with Christ when Christ was crucified for us.
“Nevertheless I live”—This is our present experience of grace. Being born again by the grace of God, having the gift of faith wrought in us by the invincible, irresistible power of his grace, we who were dead in trespasses and in sins live. Every believer is a paradox. He is dead to the law, and yet lives to God. He has been crucified with Christ, and yet lives by Christ. Indeed, the crucified Christ lives in him.
“Yet not I”—What does Paul mean by this? He is telling us that he is now a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). He was no longer Saul the blasphemer, the persecutor, and injurious man. He was no longer Saul the Pharisee. He is not telling us that his old nature was gone, or even improved (Rom. 7:14-24). Rather, he is telling us that a new man has been created in him by the grace of God; and that new man living in him is Christ. This new life was not something he had obtained by his own efforts, or by his own righteousness. It was the gift and work of God in him (1 John 3:1-9). A new, righteous nature had been created in him by grace. And that new nature implanted in him, that righteousness imparted to him was Christ himself (Col. 1:27; 2 Pet. 1:4).
“But Christ liveth in me”—Christ is the Author, Giver, and Sustainer of spiritual life; but he is more than that. Christ is our life! He is formed in us. He dwells in us. He is united to us, and we to him. We are “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” We are one with him (Eph. 5:30-32). We who are born of God are so united to him, so thoroughly one with him that his life is our life and our spiritual life is his. It is Christ living in us!
“And the life which I now live in the flesh”—Here Paul is speaking of his temporary earthly existence, his physical existence in this world.
“I live by the faith of the Son of God”—This is not the faith or faithfulness our Savior exercised as a man while he lived in the earth, but the faith he gives to his elect by the effectual call of his Spirit. It is the faith of which he is both the Author and the Object. This is the faith by which we live in this world.
Paul did not say that he lived upon faith in Christ, but “by” it. We do not live before God upon our faith, but upon Christ the Object of our faith, ever looking to him alone for pardon, righteousness, peace, joy, comfort, every supply of grace, and eternal salvation.
He who is our Savior, the Object of our faith is "the Son of God." He is himself God, one with and equal with his Father, the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth.
“Who loved me”—How Paul must have delighted to write those words! He understood that the Lord God his Savior loved him before the foundation of the world with an everlasting, immutable, indestructible love. Let every believing heart be assured of this great, glorious fact. God our Savior loved us from everlasting and loves us freely (Jer. 31:3; Hos. 14:4). His love for us is not in any way dependent upon or determined by us. He loves us eternally. And he loves us personally and particularly with a distinguishing love.
Let others talk as they may about “God’s universal love.” Such language is both contrary to Holy Scripture and would utterly destroy all inspiration and motivation in us to honor him and live for him. If God’s love for Jacob and his hatred of Esau are made to be the same thing, Jacob has no reason at all to praise, worship, and serve him. But that is not the case. God’s love for his own elect is a particular, special love, a love by which he distinguishes his own elect from all others, a love that inspires the hearts of those who know it to live for him.
“And gave himself for me”—Imagine that. Christ Jesus the Lord, the Son of God gave himself for me! He gave himself into the hands of justice, gave himself unto death, gave himself in my room and stead, as an offering and sacrifice to God for sin to redeem me because he loved me! He gave himself for me freely and voluntarily because of his great love for me.
Our Savior gave his life a ransom for many. He died to redeem and save all his people, for his whole church, all the members of his mystical body. That is a blessed fact of divine Revelation. Yet, Paul speaks of this matter as singularly respecting himself, almost as if he was the only person Christ loved and redeemed. It was Christ’s love for him, Christ’s death for him that overwhelmed him. Faith does not deal with indefinite ambiguities, but with blessed, personal realities (Eph. 1:13-14). As John Gill put it, “Faith deals with Christ not in a general way, as the Savior of the world, but with a special regard to a man’s self: this is the life of faith; and these considerations of the person, love, and grace of Christ, animate and encourage faith in its exercises on him.”
“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.” Here is man, but here is the Son of God as well, and the two personalities are singularly interwoven. Christ and the believer are one! As we are naturally one with Adam, as he is our representative in the Covenant of Works, so we are one with Christ as he is our Representative in the Covenant of Grace. How can this be? (Rom. 5:18-19).
Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ.” He means by this that we are one with Christ. “As in the womb, head and members are not conceived apart, but together, as having relation to each other; so were we and Christ (as making up one mystical body to God) formed together in the eternal womb of election” (Thomas Goodwin).
“Lord Jesus, are we one with Thee?
O height, O depth of love!
Thou one with us on Calvary,
We are with Thee above.
Thou didst from heaven come down,
With us of flesh and blood partake,
In all our misery, one.
Our sins, our guilt, in love divine,
Confessed and borne by Thee;
The gall, the curse, the wrath, were Thine,
To set Thy members free.
Ascended now in glory bright,
Still one with us Thou art;
Nor life, nor death, nor depth, nor height
Thy saints and Thee can part.
O teach us, Lord, to know and own
This wondrous mystery,
That Thou with us art truly one,
And we are one with Thee.
Soon, soon, shall come that glorious day,
When seated on Thy throne,
Thou shalt to wondering world’s display
That Thou art with us one.”
We have such a union with Christ that when he died, we actually died in him, thus God’s wrath was satisfied (Isa. 53:4-6, 8, 12; Matt. 20:28; Gal. 1:4; 3:13). Our union to Christ is such that when he was quickened from the dead, we were made alive in him (Eph. 2:3, 5, 6; Col. 2:12-14; 3:1; Rom. 8:1, 33-39). Because we are one with him, living in him, we shall never die (John 10:28; 11:25-26).