Have you ever thought about trying to crucify yourself? We might be able to hold the spike on our feet with one hand and the hammer in the other. However, one strike with the hammer – and we would surely quit! And besides, how could we drive the nails into our hands? It would be impossible. No man can crucify himself – not physically, anyway. And no man can crucify himself spiritually, either. That too is impossible. Yet, Paul declared, “I have been crucified with Christ.”
If you have been trying to crucify yourself – please stop; it doesn’t work. For years I tried to crucify myself. I thought that if I studied more, prayed more, fasted a lot more, and used will power to overcome temptations, then I would be able to declare with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ.” Again, it doesn’t work. It’s impossible to crucify ourselves, no matter how hard we try.
Yet, Jesus told His disciples, and others as well, that “if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matt 10:38;16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; 14:27) It sort of sounds like Jesus wants us to experience the cross. The question is: How? What exactly was He talking about when He said those words? I don’t think He was referring to being physically crucified, but no doubt, a vivid image of being crucified must have filled their minds.
Crucifixion was the worse form of death known to man. It was invented by the Persians around the 5th Century BC and later perfected by the Romans. It was the most painful way to put a person to death. The very thought of crucifixion invoked fear in the hearts of men. So, it served as a great deterrent against major crimes, as only the worse criminals were condemned to die by crucifixion. (By the way, some countries are said to still practice some form of crucifixion today!)
In Galatians 2:20, the apostle Paul wrote these words: “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.”Paul declared that he had been crucified with Christ. He didn’t say, I will be crucified or I am being crucified with Christ. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ!” He spoke in the past tense. It already happened. The question is when? When did it happen? How did it happen? Did it possibly happen during his many missionary tours?
Paul suffered a great deal during his three ministry tours. You can read about them in the book of Acts. All totaled, he was shipwrecked three times, stoned once and left for dead, beaten with rods three times, and given thirty-nine lashes on five other occasions, the max allowed under Jewish law. That is about as close as it gets to being crucified. On numerous occasions we are told that he faced death. Were those experiences what he was referring to when he said…“I have been crucified with Christ?”
On Paul’s second missionary tour, he visited Athens, Greecw. (Acts 17:16-34) While there, he was given an opportunity to preach to the philosophers and scholars at the Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill. Paul spoke about things like, idolatry, repentance, the coming judgment, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ – but failed to talk about the necessity of the cross. As a result, we are told that only a few men joined him. When he got to Corinth, the next stop on his missionary tour, something had changed. Now in Corinth, Paul was determined, “not to know anything among [them] except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) The message of the cross had become central in his preaching.
In Galatians 6:14, Paul went on to say, “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.” The cross was the only thing he would boast about. He didn’t boast about himself, his accomplishments, or his heroism. Instead, Paul boasted about the cross of Christ. Notice that it wasn’t his cross he boasted about; it was the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s the cross of Christ that separates us from the world! It’s the cross of Christ that crucifies us to the world, and the world to us. Not our cross…His cross. Nothing else can separate us and free us from the world. If we reject the cross of Christ, we will embrace the world.
So, how do we experience the cross of Christ in our life?
It begins when we realize we can’t crucify ourselves. (So, stop trying!) Discovering the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is all about surrender. When Jesus was about to be crucified, He knew it would be impossible to endure the cross in His own strength. As a man, He was about to face the most gruesome experience in life – and yet, He knew it was the Father’s will. How could anyone willingly submit to the tortures of crucifixion? Humanly speaking, it was impossible, and Jesus had a human nature like us. And so, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and seek His Father’s face – to receive the grace that can only come from above.
That night Jesus faced the cross and prayed this prayer in Luke 22:42-44 (TPT): “Father, if you are willing, take this cup of agony away from me. But no matter what, your will must be mine. Jesus called for an angel of glory to strengthen him, and the angel appeared. He prayed even more passionately, like one being sacrificed, until he was in such intense agony of spirit that his sweat became drops of blood, dripping onto the ground.”
Jesus faced the cross on His knees, because He knew it was impossible to endure the agony He was about to experience without grace from heaven. In that place of total surrender to the Father something happened. Jesus received power through the Holy Spirit to lift Him above the horror of crucifixion. It was only when He yielded to the will of His Father that He experienced the power of the cross.
I’m afraid the Church has rejected the message of the cross, because we haven’t understood what it means to be crucified with Christ. We have either tried to crucify ourselves or have abandoned the message altogether as being too negative. Neither of those choices will work. We can only experience the power of the cross by yielding to the will of God and the finished work of Christ.
Embracing our cross is about submitting and yielding to the amazing grace of God won for us on the cross. That is where we receive God’s grace. The Scripture says, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8) The cross is God’s gift to us. As sinners, we are all worthy of death – but instead of us being crucified, God hung His Son on the cross on our behalf. Through the cross, Jesus secured the victory of heaven over sin, Satan, and the power of death. He saved us through His cross, and our faith in the finished work of Calvary is the key to victory.
So, here’s a thought you may have never considered: According to the Bible, when Jesus was crucified, we were crucified with Him. That may sound a little “far out,” but it’s what Paul says happened to him. “I have been crucified with Christ.”
Paul’s confession of having been crucified with Christ didn’t come from all his sufferings. He had a revelation from God – a revelation that he had been crucified with Christ. But how? In Romans 6, Paul articulates the revelation he received through the Holy Spirit. Check out Romans 6:3-6 (AMP): “Or are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 We have therefore been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory and power of the Father, we too might walk habitually in newness of life [abandoning our old ways]. 5 For if we have become one with Him [permanently united] in the likeness of His death, we will also certainly be [one with Him and share fully] in the likeness of His resurrection. 6 We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”
In the eternal world, God’s world outside of time, we died with Christ on the cross. When you and I surrendered our life to Christ, we were baptized into His death. The word “baptized” means to be immersed in or covered over. When a person is baptized in water, they are immersed in or covered with water. When they are baptized in the Holy Spirit they are immersed in or covered over with the Holy Spirit.
When we were baptized into Christ Jesus, we were immersed or covered over with Him – becoming one with Him in His death. The baptism Paul is talking about is not water baptism, as some may think. Instead, he is talking about a baptism into Christ that takes place in the spiritual realm. We may not be aware of it, naturally speaking – but it is nevertheless true, according to Scripture.
The moment you and I were born again, we became one with Christ in the Spirit. In the eternal scheme of things, we were on that cross the day Jesus was crucified! We died when He died because He died in our place. That is how we became one with Him in His death. That was when our old, carnal nature was nailed to the cross with Christ and buried with Him that day. Like Paul, we were crucified with Christ two thousand years ago.
Water baptism does not save us, but baptism into Jesus Christ does. That is why Paul could only boast in the cross of Christ. Water baptism is simply the outward sign of what happened in the spirit realm. In water baptism, we identify with His death and resurrection. We declare to those present in both the visible and the invisible world…it is finished! We died with Christ, that we might live with Him. And just as Christ rose from the dead, we also rose with Him to a newness of life. His cross was our cross.
Before Jesus’ took His last breath He said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) He had finished the work the Father had given him to do, yes, and He also finished everything we would ever need to do! The work of redemption was complete at Calvary. We can never add to what Jesus did.
Understanding that we have been crucified with Christ is a life-changing revelation. Rather than striving to overcome our old sinful nature, it’s really a matter of knowing that it is already done. Consider these words in Romans 8:1-2. “So now the case is closed. There remains no accusing voice of condemnation against those who are joined in life-union with Jesus, the Anointed One. For the “law” of the Spirit of life flowing through the anointing of Jesus has liberated us from the “law” of sin and death.” (TPT) We are free! Free – because we have already been crucified with Christ and our carnal nature was nailed to the cross.
In Romans 6:10-11, Paul explains how to enforce the victory of the cross. “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The word “reckon” means to consider it done…finished at the cross. You and I cannot add one iota to what Jesus did…He did it all! We were crucified with Christ 2,000 years ago. Now, we get to walk in the finished work of Calvary.
And yet, every day we have a choice. Will we choose to walk in the newness of life by submitting our will to His will and reckoning ourselves dead to sin? Or, will we continue to surrender to the world, the devil, and the residue of our crucified flesh? The act of reckoning is a form or type of prayer that enforces spiritual reality in the natural realm of life. Every time we reckon ourselves dead to sin, we are declaring the power of the finished work of the cross.
I, like the apostle Paul, choose to believe God’s Word and simply confess that – “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 of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(Galatians 2:20)
(All Scripture references are from the NKJV, unless otherwise noted.)