When Christ died on the cross, taking the punishment for my sin, and removing my sin away from me, He also freed me the power sin had over me. Today in the Galatians series, a focus on what was crucified at the cross in Galatians 5:24-26 and 6:14-16.
In court of law language–we are justified. Our eternal inheritance is secure, Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us and will one day take us home. In the meantime, our being a new creature is really like being a new baby. As such, we must give ourselves room to grow. Always growing, always becoming more like Christ, always in process of being transformed by the Spirit into His likeness. Part of this process is the call to obedience. That we–mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually would crucify the flesh, and the world. That we would part ways with the old man and enjoy growth as the new man.
So while other Scriptures teach that we were crucified with Christ–this is not teaching in opposition, but is teaching about our response–our willingness to break off completely with the old self, with all that inwardly opposes God’s glory and seeks our own. This is a battle in the realm of thought and feeling mostly–not in the actual ‘body’ per se. Less about our bodily actions and more about how those habits were formed through heart and mind.
In Christ, by the Spirit, we have crucified the flesh; we have declared that Christ is more of a treasure to us, and worthy of glory and honor. We have declared that we will follow His way, which is to carry our crosses daily, die daily, put to death the deeds of the flesh etc. This is not the same as merely changing outward behavior. Ferguson says it is that: ‘We refuse to allow our minds to contemplate, or our affections to run after anything which will draw us away from Christ.’ It is not a matter of merely saying no to evil, but also saying yes to ‘all the good and spiritually-nourishing disciplines of the Gospel.’ 1
Crucify– a very gruesome, not culturally acceptable to even speak of. According to one commentator, Paul’s boasting was, by the standards of his day, “a matter of unrelieved shame, not of boasting. It is difficult, after sixteen centuries and more during which the cross has been a sacred symbol, to realize the unspeakable horror and loahing which the very mention or thought of the cross provoked in Paul’s day. The word crux was unmentionable in polite Roman society (Cicero, Pro Rabirio, 16); even when one was being condemned to death by crucifixion the sentence used an archaic formula which served as a sort of euphemism: arbori infelici suspendito, ‘hang him on the unlucky tree’ (Cicero, ibid. 13). 2
The word of the cross is utter foolishness to the world. But we are crucified to the world. The word of the cross is to us the power of God. God transforming us with His great power–the power by which He upholds all that He’s created. The power by which He raised Jesus from the dead. The power which keeps us, and protects us, that none can snatch us out of His hand. The power to transfer us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His Beloved Son.
Vs 25 continues about our flesh.
Flesh here in this context does not refer to our body, not to anything physical. Rather, flesh refers to our Old Man, the sum of who you were apart from Christ. Primarily in the realm of thought and feeling. Habits. Ways. Conscience.
Flesh. With its passions and desires. Lusts. Over-desires. Desires that once controlled you. But now the love of Christ constrains us!!! Let that be your mantra, your memory verse…Ask the Spirit to make it so, and He will.
Our struggle is against the unseen–so we take every thought captive. And we sentance those contrary thoughts to death on the cross. And we don’t wallow for having once had them. We do not say “that is who I am, whoa is me.” We walk in the newness of life! We present our members anew to God, as slaves to Him, slaves to righteousness. We train our brains in new habits. (Prayer, praise, gratitude, humility, love, joy, peace.) We think upon Him, and become like Him.
Now for the nitty gritty. How do we do this?
Boasting in the cross, crucifying our flesh, taking up our cross and following Christ must be personal, daily, and in true fellowship with believers; recognizing specific sins, bringing any of them to the cross contemplatively/meditatively/prayerfully, in the knowledge of your Union with Christ, and while seeking His grace simultaneously.
Vs 26 asks us to ponder if we are boastful? This boasting will be death to the community! The Fruit of the Spirit fosters community life– and we cannot live apart from His Body! If we boast in anything other than the cross, we kill His Body, we extinguish all true fellowship available to us. There can be no challenging! And no envy! We compare not, rather we seek grace together! We pray together! We set our minds on the same Scriptures. We forgive just as He forgave us. We boast in the cross together, rather than boasting in our “spirituality” or apparent success at crucifying the flesh.
6:14-16 Paul would never boast, except in the cross! The cross has come between us and the world–killing the world’s hold on us, and killing our desirability to the world. The world hates us, as it hated Him. The world mocks that we do not join them in dissipation. The world deep down needs His reconciliation–and we minister to the world not by being of it, but by being in Christ, and being different than the world. We offer the world what He offered to us. (What is that? a beautiful meditation…)
And so, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters, but being a new creation! In the old order of the Law, a distinction was made between Jew and Gentile–and community membership was shown by circumcision. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, but all are made new in Christ. So the outward sign of circumcision has become irrelevant. We now know that faith alone ushers us into the covenant community (the True Israel mentioned in 6:16). The Galatians were told that seeking the sign for religious purposes would sever them from Christ–and now Paul rounds out his teaching by saying that neither having or not having is of eternal value.
Timothy was circumcised under Paul’s care later–because that was not a matter of justification. So, if we understand this Epistle rightely it will lead us to enjoy our freedom in Christ (remember 5:1 and 5:13?), and to trust HIM ALONE to do His work in our hearts. Our membership in His community is not due to circumcision, nor is it due to our uncircumcision, or any other physical action we take. It is due to His making us a new creation. Nothing done to our body by us will matter. And so we do not follow the Colossians who attempted to deal with their lusts by legalistic bodily actions. This proves to be of no avail against the flesh, and only serves to hurt us more deeply inwardly than we know.
Peace to those who walk by this rule!!! Ahhhh, walking 3 mph with Jesus, in seemingly insignificant ways. Walking, as His subjects, in His kingdom that is not of this earth. Walking, obeying everything Jesus taught.
So this week, endeavor to add into your morning routine the contemplation that your old man is dead, your flesh (and its desires) is crucified with Christ and no longer rules over you. The world is dead to you and you to the world. You are not defined or ruled by any of these. They are dead to you.