I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who 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 up for me. Galatians 2:20 NASB
We looked at the etymology of this verse by breaking it down into chunks and examining each piece for clues as to its meaning, and how we can apply it to real life.
What is the meaning of I? If you were to lay a human out on an operating table and start cutting away at them, would you be able to remove the ‘I’ (not the eyes…)? The reality is that you cannot physically remove the ‘I’ from a person – it’s not actually a concrete part of any person. ‘I’ can more accurately be described as one’s ego.
But what is your ego? People like to tell you about it when you think too highly of yourself – you’re full of yourself, conceited – they tell you your ego is too big. According to Merriam Webster, your ego is the opinion you have about yourself. In psychology, it’s the part of the mind that senses and adapts to the real world. In a scholarly sense, it is the complete person, comprising both body and soul.
Have Been Crucified
Grammar Lesson: This fragment is in the present perfect passive – a tense used to describe something happening to the subject at an unspecified time. In this case, we are the subject, and the crucifying is happening to us. The crucifying is also happening at an unspecified time – we’re not sure when it happened, but we know it did.
Did Jesus have a self-life?
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – the worst kind of death – through crucifixion. Philippians 2:5-8 MSG
So Jesus explained himself at length. “I’m telling you this. The Son can’t independently do something, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does. The Father loves the Son and includes him in everything he is doing.” John 5:19 MSG
“I’m praying not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me, because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind – just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are – I in them, and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me.” John 17:20-23 MSG
The above passages provide evidence to prove that Jesus did not have a self-life. In the first, Jesus gives up his life as a deity and became a human. When the going got tough, he didn’t give it up and return to God’s side – he kept going, even knowing that the worst type of death was coming for him. In the second passage, Jesus tells followers how he can do nothing of his own free will, he can only do that which he sees his Father do. And in the third passage, Jesus prays to his Father in heaven that everyone who currently believes in him, as well as those who will believe in him in the future, will be able to have the same relationship with the heavenly Father that he has.
This lack of self-life sure helped Jesus to cope with the temptation he faced during his human life. When Satan came to him in the desert, after 40 days of fasting, he didn’t realize that Jesus had been feasting spiritually on the heavenly Father’s life, and that the devil’s temptations to earthly life weren’t actually all that appealing. The situation that Jesus faced in the Garden of Gethsemane was much more difficult – as he prayed before his trial, it wasn’t the pain of death he was worried about, even though he knew that crucifixion was the most painful death possible. He was worried by the knowledge that he was about to be separated from his Father for the first time. Surely, as he hung on the cross and God turned away from him, it was the first time that he was completely empty.
And I No Longer Live
This fragment alludes to the fact that, once we are crucified with Christ, our self-image, self-respect, ego, and pride are dead. They are no longer part of us, and this couldn’t have been done by us. It was done for us, by God. So why do we still struggle with this?
But Christ Lives in Me
We all essentially have 3 components to who we are, and they can be arranged in a set of nesting circles. The innermost circle contains our spirit – this determines our identity. The middle circle contains our soul – this includes our mind, our will, and our emotions. The outermost circle is our body – our 5 senses, action, a dwelling for the other parts. God resides outside the largest circle, and with the soul and the body in between, our spirit’s connection to God has been severed. This causes us to start to look outside ourselves to develop our identity, rather than digging deeper within.
The Live I Live in the Body
As we slowly allow Jesus access to our lives, he will move through and clean the garbage out. First one area, then the next, and before you realize, he is the master of your ‘house’, and you are merely his servant, living out his will. All we need is faith.
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1 MSG
I Live by Faith
Does this faith come from our soul, where our mind, will, and emotions reside? Not really, but we are getting close. Our soul can be evidence to ourselves that we do indeed have faith. The Holy Spirit brings faith to our spirit that Christ abides in us. But our mind, will, and emotions sometimes have their own ideas.
Maybe you’re a thinker: when you encounter a problem, you just can’t stop thinking about it. You run over it in your head again and again, you just can’t let go of it. You will try to think your way to a solution.
Maybe you’re a feeler: when your problems are overwhelming, you try to find something pleasing to take your mind off of them. Common vices mentioned were food and video games. But submitting to these vices are only a band-aid solution, and eventually, they will no longer bring you pleasure. Rather, they become idols when you look to these to solve your problems rather than taking them to Jesus.
Maybe you’re a chooser/doer: got a problem? You just go out and fix it. Simple, right? Eventually you’ll get to the point of complete exhaustion from always being on the go, trying to fix all the problems.
Trying to find our identity in these categories causes everything to fall apart, and what we once thought was our greatest strength starts to present itself as a weakness.
In the Son of God
We must continue to live with the same faith we had when we received Christ. If we live by faith, moment by moment, we will soon realize that our self-life has been crucified. When we focus on anything but Christ, we will find ourselves taken captive.
Who Loves Me, and Gave Himself for Me
As stated earlier, we have been crucified with Christ. But with that knowledge, will we continue to deny it and live in our own strength, or will we let Jesus be the core of our identity?
If you’re a thinker: Meditate on Christ, rather than on your problems.
If you’re a feeler: Let Jesus be the source of your joy at all times.
If you’re a chooser/doer: Let Jesus guide you in what you should do, and listen when he tells you to take a break.