I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth 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. Galatians 2:20 KJV
This verse is not translated correctly in the King James Version. The phrase “I am crucified” should read, “I have been crucified.” The Greek verb tense indicates that this is a past work that has already been completed. You and I are not in the state of being crucified, nor are we in a perpetual state of crucifixion. Like Christ, we were crucified once and for all time the moment we identified ourselves with His crucifixion and were born again of the Spirit of God. We died on the cross with our Lord. We were buried with Him in death. We were resurrected with Him to newness of life. We ascended with Him and now we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5–6).
Aren’t you glad Jesus is not still on the cross? Neither are we. We don’t have to go around daily crucifying our old man. He’s dead. He was nailed to the cross. We have become brand new creatures: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Just as Jesus never has to go to the cross to be crucified again, neither do we have to die again and again: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me [us] free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
The Inward Man
The expression “yet not I” is not found in the original Greek version of Galatians 2:20. This Scripture could better be translated: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live; but Christ lives in me.”
Paul is saying the law killed him. What happens when a person dies? When someone dies, he is not annihilated. Death is never annihilation. Physical death is the separation of the inward man from the outward man. The inward man, the real man, either goes on to be with the Lord in heaven or to be with the devil in hell, one of the two. The outward shell of the person remains on the earth with nothing in it.
That’s what happens when you and I are born again; our old natures inside us, that once belonged to Satan, moved out, and the Spirit of Jesus Christ came to live in our physical bodies. Our bodies didn’t change. It wasn’t the outward man that changed; it was the inward man who was born again. It is not so much our “old [spiritual] man” we must contend with now. It’s the flesh that gives us so much trouble, and Satan who is at large in the earth. However, this is really no problem because greater is He who lives in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Therefore we can still overcome him by the blood of Jesus and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).
Accepting What Has Already Been Done For Us
“And the life which I now live (after the new birth) I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” This translation brings out better the twofold theme of the book of Galatians: salvation by faith, spirituality by faith. Paul stresses the fact he was dead, crucified with Christ, then resurrected, born again by faith, and the life he now lives, after his salvation experience was also by faith. The life he lived in this fleshly body was not of the law; it was full of grace.
Our salvation is a free gift from God. We don’t deserve it; we can’t earn it. All we do to receive it is accept it by faith. In the same way, our spiritual life after salvation is by grace; we can never deserve or earn it by our own efforts. It, too, is a gift of God received by faith.
Does this mean we no longer need to pray or read the Bible or attend church or give offerings? Not to merit righteousness we don’t. As good as all these things are, they won’t merit righteousness any more than they would merit salvation. Then why do we do them? We do them because we want to, because we love God and want to communicate with Him, hear from Him, learn more about Him, serve Him, and have a part in His ministry of reconciliation. Any other reason for doing these things is selfish. It’s legalistic. It’s trying to get God to do something for us because we’ve done something for Him. That is the wrong motivation. We can never please God by our self-striving efforts.
Some people think they move God by their faith. That’s not so. God has already moved by His grace. All we do is accept by our faith what God has already done.
I like to think of it this way. Grace is God reaching out toward us, and faith is us reaching out toward God. God reached out first, and we reach out second. Our faith does not cause God to move; His grace causes our faith to move. We are not saved because God responds to our faith and saves us. Redemption has been completed ever since Jesus Christ rose from the grave. The work is finished. God’s part is done. That is grace. Now our part is accepting that which has already been done for us. That’s faith. Faith does not move God to action. Faith is our action in response to God’s grace. Grace always precedes faith.
We don’t attain righteousness by our efforts. It was given to us by God as an act of His grace. Now we accept that righteousness by faith, by responding to what God has already done for us in Jesus Christ.