On the surface, it seems like one of the strangest verses in the Bible. In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Wait, what? I have been crucified with Christ? What in the world does that mean.
Jesus’ death took place thousands of years ago. I wasn’t physically there when it happened. Yes, he died for me. Yes, my sins are forgiven because of him.
But what does it mean that I have been crucified with Christ?
Let’s look a bit deeper at what the Bible has to say on this profound subject.
United To Christ, Crucified With Christ
In order to understand the staggering reality of being crucified with Christ, we need to first understand what it means that we are united to Christ.
Again and again through the New Testament, the Bible says that those who have trusted in Christ are spiritually, uniquely, organically joined to Christ.
We are so closely united to Jesus that when God looks at us, he sees Jesus and when he looks at Jesus he sees us.
In 1 Corinthians 6:17, Paul says, “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.“
In Romans 6:5, we read, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
This is an utterly life-changing truth. If we can grasp this, it can completely change the way we live.
We are united to Christ. Joined to him. Baptized into Christ. Of one spirit with him. His life flows into us, just like life flows from a vine to a branch.
In John 15:5, Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
We have been grafted into Jesus like a branch grafted into a vine. He is ours and we are his. Christ is in us and we are in Christ.
You could say that Christ is our representative, and everything he did was on our behalf.
In his book Union With Christ, Rankin Wilbourne puts it this way:
In the same way, Christ represents those who place their faith in him. If we are united to Christ, then we are united to him in all that he has done for us. Christ represents those who come to be his so thoroughly that we are said to have been “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20), “buried … with him” (Rom. 6:4), and “raised with Christ” (Col. 3:1). We are even “seated … with him in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6) now as we walk about with both feet on the ground.
Isn’t that beautiful? Christ represents us so thoroughly and so closely that it’s as if we did those things too. It’s as if we were crucified, buried, raised, and seated with Christ. Yes, it was Jesus who did these things, but because we are so closely joined to Jesus it’s as if we did them too.
If we’re going to understand what it means to be crucified to Christ, we must try to wrap our brains around the fact that we are really and truly joined to Jesus Christ.
The Life We Now Live
If we are going to understand the implications of what it means to be crucified with Christ, we also need to understand what happened when Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead.
In Romans 6:10, Paul says, “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”
When Jesus died, he died to the power of sin. Before he died, he could still be tempted to sin (though he was totally sinless). But when he died, sin lost all its power. Jesus could no longer be tempted to sin. He had died to sin and was alive to God.
Because we are united to Christ, we were also crucified with Christ. When we believed in Christ, God looked at us as if we too had died, were buried, and were raised to newness of life.
Our old self, the self that was enslaved to sin, died when we believed in Christ. This is why Paul says in Romans 6:6-7, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
What a glorious passage! Our old self was crucified with Christ, which means that we are no longer slaves to sin. We no longer have to obey the sinful passions and desires that once drove us. We no longer are followers of Satan, giving into the sinful desires that course through us.
We have been crucified with Christ AND we have also been raised with Christ. We have new, resurrection life flowing through us. We literally have a new identity in Christ, and that identity changes everything.
Our new identity in Christ should dramatically influence the way that we live. We no longer have to give in to sin. Because we have been crucified with Christ, sin doesn’t have any enslaving power over us. We can put sin to death. We can say, “No,” to sinful passions and pleasures.
Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…”
We have experienced the regenerating, saving, life-giving grace of God. This grace has joined us to Jesus Christ, and his life really is our life.
Reflect on this staggering reality for just a moment. Do you know that you have the risen Christ in you, and his life is your life? You have died and risen with Christ, and because of this, you have also died to the power of sin.
Again, to quote Rankin Wilbourne:
Paul is saying union with Christ not only gives you a new identity; it gives you a new mindset, a new grid through which to filter everything that happens to you. For it’s not so much what happens to you that defines you, as how you interpret what happens to you.
When we’re tempted to sin, we need to interpret things through our new identity in Christ. Sin is no longer the controlling factor in our lives.
Because we have been crucified with Christ, we’re dead to sin. We now have the power to turn away from temptation. We really can put sin to death.
This why Paul says in Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”
Crucified With Christ: A Prayer
Father, thank you that I am crucified with Christ. Thank you that I am dead to sin and alive to God. Thank you for the new life that I have in Jesus. Thank you that I have a new identity – an identity of freedom and joy and life.
Because I have been crucified with Christ, help me now live as one who is dead to sin and alive to God. Help me put to death every sin that clings so tightly. Help me lay aside the weights that slow me down. Help me be holy as you are holy.
Thank you that sin is no longer my master. Jesus, you are the vine and I am a branch. I want to abide in you every single day. Let me be constantly aware of the new life that I have in you. Help me to live as one who has been crucified, buried, and is now raised with Christ.
I ask these things, confident that you are on my side and are at work in me, helping me to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. In Jesus name, Amen.