“Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free? No there’s a cross for ev’ryone, and there’s a cross for me / The consecrated cross I’ll bear till He shall set me free, and then go home my crown to wear, for there’s a crown for me” (Song: Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone? By Thomas Shepherd).
The book of Galatians contains the word “crucified” four times (Galatians 2:20; 3:1; 5:24; 6:14). It is not only Christ who has been crucified. Paul had been, and every Christian should be.
1. Crucified Self
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by Faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
What is meant? Some believe that this teaches that the “old man” is to be put to death (cf. Romans 6:6). There should be repentance. One is raised from baptism to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Marshall Keeble told the story of a man who used to beat his wife. The two separated. She returned to her father’s house. The man converted to Christ. He showed up at his father-in-law’s house. He said that he wanted to speak to his wife. The father-in-law confronted him about the abuse. The man replied, “that man has died.” True change had come to Paul. People said, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1:23).
However, the immediate context seems to refer to Paul’s dying to the idea or self-righteousness, justification by law-keeping alone (Galatians 2:16, 19-21). Paul came to understand that the only way that he could be counted righteous was through faith in Christ (cf. Philippians 3:9). This realization will humble one.
Paul not only died to self, but he also let Christ live in him (1 Corinthians 11:1). He magnified him (Philippians 1:20-21).
Christ went to the cross saying to the Father, “not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). This should be our attitude. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
2. Crucified Before Eyes
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” (Galatians 3:1).
Some had been wrongly influenced by Judaizing teachers. They were not continuing to obey the truth (Galatians 3:1 cf. 5:7). They were seeking to be justified by law (Galatians 4:10-11, 21-31; 5:2-4).
Christ crucified had been clearly portrayed before their eyes (Galatians 3:1). Paul preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; 2:1-2).
It seems to be that it is essential that we continue to keep Christ and Him crucified before our eyes. We must continue to look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). It is by continued beholding of Him that we are transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18). Robert H. Mounce comments on 2 Corinthians 3:18, “We become like that which dominates our thoughts and affections… Note that the participle (beholding B.H.) is present tense. It is a continual contemplation that effects the transformation. As the participle is present tense, so also is the finite verb ‘are being changed’ …The transformation keeps pace with the contemplation the are inextricably bound together. By continuing to behold the glory of the Lord we are continually being transformed into his image” (William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, p. 298).
3. Crucified Flesh
“And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions” (Galatians 5:24).
This is said in the context of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). The works of the flesh include such things as: (1) sexual sins (adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness); (2) wrong guides, religious practices (idolatry, sorcery); (3) lack of peace, unnecessary conflict (hatred, contentions, jealousy, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders); (4) Partying, hedonistic life (drunkenness, revelries, and the like).
There are two possible directors in life. One can choose to direct his own steps (cf. Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 16:25). One can let God direct one’s steps (cf. Psalm 119:105; Galatians 5:16).
Who directs your life? Yes, a Christian may struggle with sin from time to time. And, yes, a Christian may frequently stumble. But the true Christian is clear about who directs his life. He has God as his King. He has dethroned self. He has put to death the idea of himself being king (regicide).
4. Crucified Boasting and World
“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
Men glory in many things. Some glory in their might; some glory in their riches (Jeremiah 9:23). In the immediate context, some gloried in circumcision, or circumcising others (Galatians 6:12-13). Paul said that he gloried or boasted not in anything that he himself had done; his glory was in the cross, and what Christ had done [The act of circumcision itself was nothing to boast about, in and of itself. “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6)].
Paul said that the world had been crucified to him. The things of the world and its vain-glory no longer appealed to him (cf. Philippians 3:3-11; 1 John 2:15-17).
Paul said that he had also been crucified to the world. What is meant? Some believe that this means that the world in general, especially the Jewish world, had rejected him (cf. John 15:18-21). However, this may be a restatement of the previous clause for emphasis. It is not that the world itself had died. But Paul had died to previous desires and ambitions.
Are we crucified? Consider the song None of Self and All of Thee by Theodore Monod. It moves from “All of self, and none of Thee” to “Less of self, and some of Thee” to “None of self, and all of Thee.” Where are we in truly being crucified?