Summary: Paul, Pt. 13


A most incredible story appeared in New York Times. Every working day for the past 20 years in the city of Chandigarh, India, government employees have been sitting on the same battered wooden chair, an object, a civil engineer admits, that had “no beauty,” but “for office use, very comfortable.” The chairs were each worth an estimated 400 rupees, or about $10, at a junkyard. Few of the city’s employees gave the furniture a second glance. Gradually, as the furniture fell into disrepair, it was thrown into government storerooms and occasionally auctioned “for peanuts.”

One day in 1999, a handful of antique dealers from around the world became regular visitors to the government junkyards in this city about 150 miles north of New Delhi, a modernist city conceived by the architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s. There they go about the business of buying up disused stocks of furniture.

Rajnish Wattas, principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, was stunned when he saw the catalog for a sale of the chairs at Christie’s in New York, on sale at the auction house for $8,000 to $12,000 – 1,000 times its worth. The city woke up to the knowledge that the chairs were specially designed by famed designer Pierre Jeanneret and created by Corbusier’s colleagues. “We found out that we were sitting on a pot of gold, quite literally.” (“A City That Sat on Its Treasures, but Didn’t See Them,” New York Times, 3/19/08)

The greatest event and transformation in history turned Paul’s life around. He met his Maker, his Master and his match. The religious zealot who persecuted Christians wherever they were bound and wherever they were found discovered that Christianity is not about religious creeds, moral codes or ethical conduct. Christianity is not bound in a philosophy, but in a person: Jesus Christ, who is not a historical footnote or a fictional character, but the living God. The strength of a believer lies in a powerful, personal and present relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ is our identity, our intercessor and inspiration. A Christian is, therefore, one who believes in Christ, who belongs to Him and is beloved by Him.

Who is Jesus Christ to you? What kind of relationship do you have with Christ? How are you to live?

You are Identified with Christ

20 I have been crucified with Christ

A minister was talking to a professing Christian and asked him if he was active in a local church. The man responded, “No, but the dying thief on the cross wasn’t active in any church and yet he was still accepted.”

The minister then asked if he was baptized. The man responded, “The dying thief on the cross was not baptized and he still made it to heaven.”

The minister then asked if he had partaken of the Lord’s Table. The man responded, “No, but the dying thief didn’t either, and Christ still received him.”

The minister then commented: “The only difference between you and the dying thief is that he was dying in his belief, and you are dead in yours.”

What does it mean to be crucified? A.W. Tozer says, “To be crucified means, first, the man on the cross is faced only one direction; second, he is not going back; and third, he has no further plans of his own.”

The Greek text says “With Christ I have been crucified.” The Greek word “crucified with” (sustauroo) occurs merely five times in the Bible (v 20, Rom 6:6, John 19:32, Mark 15:32, Matt 27:44). In the gospels, all the three references to “with Christ” relate to the robbers who were crucified with Jesus (Matt 27:44, John 19:32, Mark 15:32). Frankly speaking, they had no choice. The crucifixion in this passage, however, is volunteered, initiated and orchestrated. No one binds and drags you screaming, kicking and fussing to the cross.

The crucifixion experience is always “with Christ,” and not “in Christ” or “like Christ,” with the latter two words amounting to losing one’s individuality, personality and reality. Further, no one suffers on the cross the same way as Jesus. The Bible tells us we died to sin (Rom 6:2) and that we died with Christ (Rom 6:8), but never “died in Christ” or “crucified in Christ.” Crucified with Christ is related to one’s internal motivation, not the external manner or method.

A person “crucified with” Christ does not think of one’s rights, respect and revenge but to share in His suffering, shame and sentence. His suffering is a lonesome, cumbersome and gruesome death. He does not want you to die for Him that way. It is not a physical crucifixion or a mental torture, so no one needs to enter a monastery, seek a cave or escape the world. It is identifying with Christ, not imitating His experience or internalizing His pain. The crucifixion is not painful but peaceful; not pitiful but purposeful, not paralyzing but profitable. It is not to deaden yourself to the world, but to deliver yourself to Christ. This relationship is rational and not irrational, realistic and not religious, relational and not romantic.

While our cross may be heavy, we are never alone, anxious or abandoned. It is a long and lonely struggle, but Christ’s presence is promised. There is no fear, failure, or fatalism associated with your crucifixion. God did not put you to the ultimate test of crucifying you on the wooden cross. The verb “crucified with” refers one other time to the old person that was “crucified with him, so that the body of sin might be done away with Him” (Rom 6:6) and the stripped-down version of “crucified” alludes to crucify “the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Gal 5:24) It means surrendering all that you are, all you have and all that you do to Him – your attention and amusements, your affections and attitudes, your acquaintances and your advancement, your aspirations and your achievements.

You are Inseparable from Christ

I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

One of the most renowned defenders, thinkers and leaders of the Christian church is Augustine, author of the famous “Confessions of Augustine.” Before he was saved, he was equally famous for his philandering ways, his brilliant intellect, and a godly mother who prayed tirelessly for his salvation.

After he turned his life over to Christ, the one area of his life that rendered Augustine helpless and powerless was his relationship with the opposite sex. To put it bluntly, he did not really know what to do with the escort ladies who were once his former companions. He was not looking forward to the test.

Soon after Augustine’s conversion, he was walking down the street in Milan, Italy. There he met a prostitute whom he had previously frequented. She called, “Augustine, it is I,” but he ignored her and kept walking, hastening his steps, I might add. She called again. “Augustine, it is I!” Without slowing down, but with full assurance and conviction, he replied, “I know, I know, but it is no longer I, it is no longer I.” (Adapted from 7,700 Illustrations # 6519)

The purpose and focus of your crucifixion is not your death from now on, but your living from now on. Do you know how many times the clause “I live’ is repeated in verse 20? Thrice, not twice. The next clause in Greek does not begin with “I no longer live” (as in NIV), but “I live but no longer I (ego), but Christ lives in me.” Paul asserts he is alive and kicking, not dead and gone. He is not denying or degrading himself or his existence in a ascetic, sadistic or monastic way. He is not saying “I died” or “I live not,” but “I live,” but he adds, “but no longer I (ego), but Christ lives in me.” By the way Paul never said in his epistles “I died” – period - or “I died in Christ,” but “I die ‘with’ Christ.” (Rom 6:8, Col 2:20, 2 Tim 2:11) Further, all references in the Bible to dying with Him is complemented by living with Him (Rom 6:8, 2 Tim 2:11).

“No longer” (ouketi) is a single word in Greek. It is not the regular “no” (ou/ouk) that occurs more than 1,500 times in the Bible, but the lesser 47 times in the Bible. Jesus only also used this form of contrast - in the context of marriage, when the husband and wife are “no longer” two, but one (Matt 19:6, Mark 10:8). The marriage is a good place to start. The two are not identical but they identify with each other. They were previously not related but they are currently in a relationship, committed and connected to each other. The two communicate and consult with each other, comprehend, complement and challenge each other. There are no coercion or control issues in a healthy relationship. They collaborate and cooperate. The two are close but not changeable or comparable. They are likeminded but not alike. They are in accord and not in discord. They are united but not in union. One does not come into marriage to snuff out or strip away the spouse’s individuality, uniqueness and characteristics.

Christ’s living in me is not the same as He living for me. It doesn’t mean being combined, conjoined or condensed into one with Christ. It means Christ is the commander, the captain, the chief, the commissioner of your life. He does not want to be your clerk, coordinator, or custodian; He wants to the chairman, the czar, the CEO, no other candidate, cast or competition is tolerated. From now on, you live not for your gratification and gain, but for His glory and in His grace.

He does not require you to suffer in His place, but to stand by His side; not for you to bear His cross, but to bear your cross; not to be humiliated, but to be humble. God does not want to be in the remote corner or in the inner circle; He wants to be the center piece. He requires not your chastisement or condemnation, but He does require your confession and commitment to Him. He wants to be your heart’s resident, not renter; a house mate and not a house guest; the boss and not the boarder.

You are Inspired by Christ

The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis reached a turning point at 48 when a tabloid published a photo of her and listed her weight as 161 pounds. She said, “I was like, ‘How dare you -- I’m not 161 pounds!’ I was indignant. I got home and I went on a scale and I was 161 pounds. I was in denial about it. So I started a really healthy way of eating, just avoiding things that I had been shoving in my mouth. Over the course of a year, I dropped about 20 pounds.”

Curtis says, “Getting older means paring yourself down to an essential version of yourself.” When she turned 50, Curtis said, “I feel way better now than I did when I was 20. I’m stronger, I’m smarter in every way, I’m so much less crazy than I was then. I’ve let my hair go gray. I wear only black and white. Every year I buy three or four black dresses that I just keep in rotation. I own one pair of blue jeans. I’ve given away all my jewelry, because I don’t wear it…I’ve had the experience of going into people’s homes after they’ve died, and I’m amazed at the number of things people amass and never look at again.”

What is the essential version of Christian living?

Textually, the verse does not say “live by (dia) faith,” but “live in (en) faith.” This preposition is not parallel to the Abrahamic covenant or the Reformation phrase: “the just will live by/out (ek) faith” (Rom 1:17, Gal 3:11, Heb 10:38). Further, we are not told to live “through” (dia) faith. The immediate preposition before and after the word “body” in Greek is the same, similar to “Christ lives ‘in’ me.” Altogether there are three “in” in verse 20. “Live in faith” is contrasted with verse 16 in the same chapter: justified by faith in Christ (Gal 2:16, Gal 3:24). One is the past, the other is the future. The Galatians were divided into two camps: the legalistic group justified by observing the law, and the libertarian group by faith in Jesus Christ (Gal 2:16), but Paula adds a third category – to live by faith, not merely justified by faith.

Just as Paul has finished his last sentence that “Christ lives in me,” he does not mean he is the past tense, passive voice or passenger mode. He still has dreams to chase, decisions to make and directions to take in life, but now his inspiration, influence and ideals have changed .

The phrase “gave (paradidomi) himself (heautou)” is such a stark revelation and a shocking twist in God’s plan. All through the gospels, the people who “gave,” “delivered” or “betrayed” Jesus - same Greek word - are plainly identified. The person most associated with this word is Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him (Matt 10:4). Others linked to the Greek word for the betrayal include “the hands of men” (Matt 17:22), “the chief priests and the teachers of the law” (Matt 20:18), the Gentiles (Matt 20:19), the hands of sinners (Matt 26:45), Pilate (Matt 27:2), and the people (John 18:35).

For the first time in the Bible, Paul reveals that Jesus “gave himself” for us. Christianity is unique because the Bible tells us “Jesus loves me,” a personal relationship and testimony not known to other faiths or with their founders.

A prominent theologian and writer when asked when asked at a press conference how he would summarize the essence of the millions of words he had published, he replied, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Love is never emphasized in Hinduism and Buddhism because any love, feeling or sentiment is frowned upon as attachment issues. “The Son of God loved me” is unique to Christianity and Paul’s theology. You take away love and there is no Christianity. Christianity is not about ideology, philosophy or dogma; it is about love embodied, personified and incarnated.

Conclusion: Christianity is about Who you have - Christ, not what you have – religion; not about death, but deliverance; not about one’s suffering but about one’s salvation. Christ died so that we may live. He lives in us so that we can live for Him. The life we live is in faith, not in fear. Are you living for self, slaving under sin and looking for success, or are you living a life of service, sacrifice and steadfastness. Is Christ the measure, the motivation and the model of your life?

Victor Yap

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