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Yet not I, But Christ
By David A. DePra
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Read this verse from Galatians and ask yourself the question: "Do I know what Paul is talking about? Does this describe my experience – my relationship – with Christ?
Now, before you answer, please see that I am not asking whether you understand it doctrinally. It is so easy to take this verse and say, "Well, yes, I do believe I am justified by faith, and that I am living the Christian life by faith." No, no, no. What Paul is describing in this verse is not his doctrinal understanding, or some kind of, "positional Truth." He is talking about something far beyond that – a life in Christ which is hardly ever preached today at all.
Paul is talking, in this verse, about a UNION with Jesus Christ. Not merely about the theology of salvation. Every part of the verse speaks UNION and ONENESS. Note these points: Rather than say, "Christ was crucified FOR me," that Paul says, "I am crucified WITH Christ." Rather than say, "I live FOR Christ," He says, "Christ lives IN ME." Rather than say, "I live by my faith," he says, "I live by the faith of the Son of God." This is what Paul teaches in all of his letters. His constant theme is that we are IN CHRIST, and Christ is IN US. This is a much different thing than merely Christ doing things FOR us.
Have we recognized, or better yet EXPERIENCED, the reality that Christianity is CHRIST IN US? Once we see this, we will understand that everything that pertains to the Christian life is the RESULT of Christ in us.
Not US, But HIM
Somewhere along the way, the church has managed to divorce what Christ has done for us, from Christ Himself. For instance, we say Christ gave us eternal life. But really, what He gave us is HIMSELF – for He IS the life. Likewise, we say that Christ will raise us up from the dead someday. But Jesus said, "I AM the resurrection." We make things like justification, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, THINGS which Christ has done for us, given us, and does TO us. But this tends to miss the point. All those THINGS are nothing more than HIS LIFE IN US.
Paul said this very thing:
That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Cor. 1:29-31)
We must see this. Christ in us, the hope of glory, (Col. 1:27) IS...IS...IS...IS... IS…these things. All of these things are of HIS LIFE, that is, these things are the manifestations of HIM in and through us. In short, because we are ONE WITH HIM, He is our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
This ought to begin to renew our thinking. It means that God is not trying to make US into righteous people. No. It means that we are already righteous because Christ is in us. And it means that any righteous life we might live, is not a matter of God molding our flesh into righteous flesh, but rather, is a matter of God wasting away our flesh so that the righteous Christ might be able to shine through us.
Get that. You and I already have all the righteousness God requires IN US. We have Christ in us! Thus, the task is not to make us more righteous. The task is to get us out of the way so that Christ can shine through.
We have this treasure in earthen vessels. But the treasure is not, and never will be, the earthen vessel. The treasure IN the earthen vessel is the treasure! The task is therefore to make the earthen vessel transparent, or to say it from another angle, the task is to break it wide open, so that Christ can be seen.
The doctrine of justification by faith rightly states that when we place our faith in Christ, God declares us to be legally righteous because of the redemptive work of His Son. At that point, God IMPUTES to us all of the righteousness of Jesus, and IMPUTES to Jesus all of our sin. This is a once for all transaction which happens when we are saved. At that point, we have merely received a new LEGAL classification – which is absolutely necessary from the standpoint of God’s justice and moral law. But notice that there is nothing in this, which, of itself, can change us.
Being reclassified from condemned to forgiven – from unrighteous to righteous – is a must. But it doesn’t actually MAKE US righteous, does it? No. And God could never declare and impute to anyone the righteousness of His Son without making provision for them to actually become righteous. Thus, while we are imputed with the righteousness of Christ through His death, we are IMPARTED with His righteousness through His resurrection. IMPUTED, but then IMPARTED.
But this only becomes clear once we understand that righteousness is not a THING. It is not a, "bucket" of something that God pours into us. NO. What God does is plant us INTO CHRIST! And then because we are planted into Christ, we are planted into righteousness. Thus, the ONLY righteousness we have is CHRIST IN US.
Have we recognized that we have a life in us which is eternal, incorruptible, and totally righteous – one with which we were NOT born, and one for which we can take no credit? Yet we have all the benefits. He is in us by grace through faith. He is Jesus Christ Himself.
The Vine and the Branches
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:1-6)
Here we see that when we are saved, it is not because God gives us a THING called eternal life. No. We are saved because we are united with LIFE HIMSELF. He is the Vine and we are the branches. We are alive because we are united with Him, and He is life.
Paul explains this clearly in Romans 6:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: (Rom 6:1-8)
This passage is nothing more than an expansion of Galatians 2:20. Rather than say Jesus died FOR us, Paul said we are baptized INTO His death. He says we are PLANTED TOGETHER into His death – that our old man is crucified WITH HIM. And rather than say that God raises us because of Christ, he says that we are raised IN CHRIST.
Again, a complete UNION is pictured. No wonder we are called HIS BODY. No wonder we are members of one another. The fact is, all eternal life, and all of it’s effects, are the results of UNION with the Person of the living Christ. It is all HIM in and through us.
You cannot divorce Christianity from Christ, and turn it into a religion with THINGS. Christianity is Christ in us – and all the His life carries.
Crucified With Christ
Now we can see that Paul was quite serious in Galatians 2:20. When he wrote, "I am crucified with Christ," he really meant it. He meant that every part of his nature of sin, as well as the self life that governed him, was united with Jesus Christ on the Cross. Sure. Jesus did not merely die FOR sin. He did not merely bear the penalty FOR sin. He BORE sin itself.
Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1 Pet 2:24)
If Jesus bore only the penalty FOR sin, rather than sin itself, then the penalty FOR sin is removed, but the sin itself remains. Can we see that? NO. Jesus not only bore the penalty for all sin as our substitute, but he bore sin itself. Indeed, if we understood it, He did not merely die FOR us, but if we embrace Him, WE DIE IN HIM.
Now, when I say, "We die in Him," I mean our old man of sin. Jesus tasted death for every man, and so He did die a death we will never need to die. But our sin nature – our, "old man of sin," was PLANTED in him, as Paul says in Romans 6, on the Cross – and thus it is proper to say, "I am crucified with Christ."
According to Paul, this did not remove the possibility of sin or it’s presence, for we continue to live in a body of flesh, in a fallen realm. But it did break the POWER of sin. Death in Christ absolutely did that. Thus, we are able to grow in freedom from sin.
Nevertheless I Live
Paul here is alluding to the fact that being crucified with Christ did not result in extinction or final death. No. Jesus did die our death as our substitute – He did taste a death we will never taste. But because we are planted into His death, and He is raised, the fundament of our being, freed from the power of sin, is raised in Him to newness of life.
But what kind of newness of life? Paul tells us. He says, "I am crucified with Christ. But nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me." Paul is making it clear that the only life He has is the life of Christ. His died on the Cross IN Christ. The life he now lives is the life of Christ THROUGH him.
Here is perhaps one of the points which is the most misunderstood. We think that if we try real hard to obey God and live holy lives, that this is Christ living through us. But it is NOT. It is our religious flesh trying to live according to what we perceive to be God’s standard. Paul is talking about a life that is not his – it is Christ in him. How might we suppose that Paul got to the point where Christ could actually live through him?
He tell us. He says, "I am crucified with Christ." In other words, the only way Christ Himself can begin to be seen, and live through you, is if there is on-going work of the Cross. It goes back to something we saw earlier. We already HAVE CHRIST IN US. The task is therefore to crucify what is hiding Him and hindering Him. What is that? Unbelief. Self-will. Ignorance. Religious flesh. Self-righteousness. Apply the Cross to those things and Christ will shine through. He will be able to live through us.
Many of us know a lot more about what it means to try to live for God than we do about what it means for Christ to live through us. Yet this is what God wants to bring us to. It will mean that we must lose our religious self-righteousness. But if we do, we will WIN CHRIST. This was Paul’s experience.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:7-11)
We are in a UNION with Jesus Christ if we are saved. Thus, we become partakers of all that He is – His life and all that goes with it. So rather than continually ask God to ADD these things TO us, we need to ask Him to do what is necessary to RELEASE them in us – and that will mean the work of the Cross, for the death of the old always results in the release of the resurrection life of Christ.
Christians need to come to terms with the fact that God can be pleased with nothing except His Son. The good news is that if we have Christ in us, we can say with the apostle Paul, "Yet not I, but Christ." When we have come to the place where we finally see that there is nothing about ourselves whatsoever that we can present to God, then we will present Christ. For at that point we will see that HE IS our righteousness – He is our LIFE.
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