Crucified With Christ
August 6th, 1972 @ 10:50 AM
CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-6-72 10:50 a.m.
The title of the sermon this morning is Crucified With Christ, or Not I, but Christ. And it is from a most famous text in the Bible, Galatians 2:20: ”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.” I would think that most of you have memorized that text from childhood and have known it from the time earliest that you were acquainted and introduced to the Holy Scriptures.
You know, sometimes in a great mountain range, there will stand up high, elevated, and lofty, a marvelous peak. One time, flying along the coast of Alaska with a missionary, our Southern Baptist leader Brother [E. C.] Chron, he said, “You know, I’ve been flying along here for fourteen years, and this is the first time I have ever seen the weather clear.” It was a beautiful day. And those mountain ranges were breathtaking.
And as we flew along, there came into view a peak towering above the others, Mount Fairweather, rising fourteen thousand feet out of the blue, blue ocean. Solid white, it looked like a gigantic snow cone. There are texts in the Bible like that. In the great range there will be a towering verse that somehow has in it the very presence and breath of God: pure, holy, piercing the blue of the sky and our deepest souls. This is one: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ.” Wouldn’t that be a wonderful text: ”Not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that 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].
Do you notice how many personal pronouns there are? It swarms with “I” and “me.” There are eight of them in that short sentence—eight of them. To begin with, as I look at it, it brings to mind the emphatic truth that the Christian faith, of all things, is personal. It is inward. It is individual. It is always that. The Christian faith is the religion of the one lost sheep, and the one lost coin, and the one lost boy [Luke 15:3-32]. God doesn’t look at us by gobs and bucketfuls and oceanfuls, but God looks at us one by one. He knows our name, and he knows all about us [John 10:3, 14]. The Christian faith is individual. It is personal. It is always that.
Sometimes looking out under the chalice of the blue, blue sky, you will see a great nebula up there in the heavens, and it looks like just a vast conglomerate. But, if you get a telescope and look at it closely, you will find it to be a galaxy of individual stars.
When you look at the great mass of mankind, they look like just thousands moving downward, outward, onward. But God looks at them individually, one by one. So it is in this text. I am me. It is a personal religion. The Christian faith begins in a personal experience. We are born into the kingdom and into the family of God.
There’s no other way that we become a part of it, except to be born personally, individually into it [John 3:3, 7-18]. We cannot become Christians by the godliness of others. Nor are we Christians because we were born in the Christian family or because we were being reared and we do live in a Christian nation. As someone facetiously said, “You might as well say that, because a fellow was born in a garage, he’s a car; or that a rat that lives in a stable is a horse.” No. However we were born, in a family or in a country, if we are Christians we are so individually, being born again into the family of God [John 3:3, 17:18].
Not only that, but our commitment to Christ and our consecration of life is always personal and individual. It is we, it is you, it is I who do it. And if it isn’t one of us, and if it isn’t we, the assembly of us, it doesn’t exist. Always that consecration is personal and individual. We give our lives to Christ one by one and commit ourselves to our Lord.
Nehemiah, however others thought or did—Nehemiah proposed in his own heart to rebuild the Holy City, the walls and the whole Holy City of God [Nehemiah 2:3-5]. Or Isaiah said: “Here am I, Lord; send me” [Isaiah 6:8]. The apostle Paul said: “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me to do?” [Acts 9:6]. And when Athanasius was made aware of the fact that the whole world was against him, the great theologian replied: “Then it is I, Athanasius, against the whole world.” However others are, and however they may think or do, our consecration is always individual and personal. Our experience is that, or it is nothing at all. It is what we have felt and we have heard, and what we have known, and what we experience; not what others, but what it means to me.
Just as no one can sleep for you, no one can wake for you. No one can eat for you. Nobody’s life can be lived for you. You have to live it yourself. So it is before God. Our experience is always individual. It is something I have felt, I have seen and I know.
Our baptismal service is like that. We are baptized, a picture of our death and resurrection [Romans 6:3-5]. Nobody can die for you. Some day you will die for yourself [Hebrews 9:27]. And however there maybe others around you, when you leave, when you go out, you go out alone. And when you stand before God you stand in yourself alone; you are judged personally, individually [2 Corinthians 5:10]. The ordinance teaches that we are buried with the Lord individually. We are raised with the Lord individually [Romans 6:3-5]. This afternoon at five o’clock, when we have the memorial of the Lord’s Supper, it will be one by one, each one of us, as we eat bread and drink of the fruit of the vine [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26].
“I am crucified with Christ, yet not I” [Galatians 2:20]. I live. I am not dead. Having died, I am alive in the flesh. All of it is personal and individual.
Now look how Paul will speak of our death unto life: “I am crucified with Christ: yet I live” [Galatians 2:20]. One of the strange things in the writings of the apostle Paul is this, that he will constantly—it is not something unique or separate or strange—he will constantly refer and address his hearers, his readers, as being dead. All through his writings he will do that. We are dead. He addresses us as dead. In the sixth chapter of Romans, for example, the eighth verse: “If we be dead with Christ….” [Romans 6:8].
Take again, in Colossians, on the one page here in Colossians, look at this: “If we be dead with Christ” [Colossians 2:20]. And then on the same page, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” [Colossians 3:3]. Or take once again, in the second chapter of the second letter of Paul to Timothy: “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him” [2 Timothy 2:11].
Isn’t that a strange nomenclature and imagery, addressing letters and speaking to his fellow Christians as being dead? “For ye are dead in Christ” [Colossians 3:3]. Well, what he means is that the cross has cut us off from the world, and we are separate and apart from it, but not in corruption and in decay. But in death, in the death of Christ, we’re also introduced to a new and a marvelous life. Those nails and that iron spear that separated us from the old life and the old world also opened a fountain of new life in God. The old man died that the new man might live. The outward man died, that the inner man might come to birth. It is a shutting-out of the world that we might be introduced to the light of the knowledge of the glory and life of God in Christ Jesus [2 Corinthians 4:6].
Once a year, as you know, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies. When he did so, he entered a cubicle that was absolutely dark. There was no ray of the light of the world that penetrated it. And when the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, he shut out the world, all of it. But as he left the light of the sun and the light of the world, he was introduced to the shekinah glory of God, the light that burned above the mercy seat. And he saw it by shutting out the light of the world [Leviticus 16:12-14; Hebrews 9:25-28].
The spiritual is the opposite of the physical. Faith is the opposite of sight. Hope is the opposite of experience. The love of God is the opposite of the love of the world. And if we would know God and see God, we must shut out the world. That’s why in prayer, we close our eyes, that we might open the eyes of our souls by faith toward God.
“I am crucified with Christ” [Galatians 2:20]. That’s another turn to something that Jesus said. Three times in the gospel does the Lord say: “Take up your cross and follow Me.” Jesus uses that expression in the tenth chapter of Matthew [Matthew 10:38], and in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew [Matthew 16:24], and in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke: “Take up your cross and follow Me” [Luke 14:27]. What does that mean? And here the Holy Spirit has given us another phrase like it: “I am crucified with Christ.” What does that mean: “I am crucified with Christ?” [Galatians 2:20]. What does that mean: “Take up your cross and follow Me?” [Luke 14:27].
Cross-bearing. Well, practically everybody will say, you know, to bear a cross: I have a burden, or I have a broken heart. Or, I have a great frustration or disappointment. Or, I have an agony. I have a great trial. This is my cross to bear. Now I do not deny, nor would you, that Christians, as everybody else—we have trials, and we have agonies, and we have heartaches, and frustrations, and despairs. But that’s not what the Bible means by that. Nor does it even approach the meaning of that.
That is something else. When the Lord refers to take up the cross, when Paul uses another Holy Spirit expression: “I am crucified with Christ” [Galatians 2:20], what he’s talking about is dying; dying, crucifixion, dying! A cross is to die on! When the Lord speaks of taking up your cross, He is talking about dying. That’s what it meant for Him, isn’t it? When the Lord bore His cross and He, bearing His cross, made His way to a hill called Golgotha, Calvary [John 19:16-17], it was a place to die, and the cross was an instrument of execution. It was death [John 19:18].
When the sun hit His face, and He cried in desolation and loneliness: “My God, why…” [Matthew 27:46], it was death. That’s exactly what Paul means here: “I am crucified with Christ” [Galatians 2:20]. It is death. The Christian is dead! He is dead to self. He is dead to ambition. He’s dead to vanity. He’s dead to egotism. He’s dead to all of the blandishments of the world. He is dead.
And I summon the temerity to speak to myself. How I need this word said to me: “Dead.” I have no feelings. And the Christian going around with feelings on his sleeves, so easily insulted, or so easily hurt, or so easily made to feel unwanted or uncared for; they don’t appreciate me, or they don’t recognize me, or they’re not cognizant of my gifts and I’m hurt; full of feeling. Dead don’t have feelings. And if I’m filled with ambition and vanity and blasphemy, then I lay myself open to all of the hurts of this world. But if I’m dead to it, I can’t be hurt. I’m dead.
Oh, how I need the sermon preached to me. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. “I am crucified with Christ” [Galatians 2:20]. I have no personal ambitions at all, just doing it for the love of Jesus. I have no ambitious aspirations at all, just loving God. You don’t need to cajole me, pat me on the back, feed me all kinds of compliments and sweetness. Wasn’t doing it for that. Doing it for God, because that life died. And what is left: just, “Not I, but Christ” [Galatians 2:20]. O Lord, how do you get there? How do you do that? Where all that you do is just for Thee: nothing of self.
Most of us start out, Lord, a whole lot of self and a little of Thee. Then if we continue to grow, some of self and some of Thee; if we continue to grow, just a little of self, and a whole lot of Thee; and finally, if we’re able to grow, none of self and all of Thee. I am crucified with Christ: dead to self [Galatians 2:20]. O Lord, we’d be new people, wouldn’t we, if we could be like that? Humble before God, just as unto the Lord. “Not I, but Christ” [Galatians 2:20].
James A. Garfield was the twentieth president of the United States and was assassinated, as you know. As president of the United States, when he came to church, the people were very conscious of him, and especially the pastor. And the pastor would refer to him from the pulpit as President James A. Garfield. And upon a day, the president came to see his pastor, and said, “Pastor, I know on the outside and before the world, I’m the president of the United States. But in the church, I’m just plain James A. Garfield.”
Or, take it again in the life of William Carey, God’s great modern missionary who founded the modern missionary movement. As you know, he turned the whole culture and life of India: William Carey. He was being entertained by the governor-general of India, and there was a petty governmental official who looked upon the Baptist missionary with contempt. So there at the dinner table, said for the ears of the missionary, the petty official said to a friend, so that William Carey could hear it—he said, “This William Carey, I understand, was a shoemaker. He was a shoemaker.”
It was said for the benefit of the missionary. So William Carey replied, “Sir, not a shoemaker. I was a cobbler. I was a cobbler.” You can’t touch a man like that. Nor can you cut a man like that, because he’s dead. He has died to himself. He’s died to every ambition. And he lives: “not I, but Christ” [Galatians 2:20].
“I am crucified with Christ: yet I live; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the Son of God” [Galatians 2:20]. It’s an introduction to another life, a resurrected life. I can easily understand how all of us who are Christians, oh, we dread the face of truth like that. To die, to die as a Christian—called upon to die, crucified, to die—inherently, instinctually, we shun such a life and such a death. No, no. For this is a death in order that we might be resurrected to another and a golden and a glorious life in God. We are resurrection people. The world and sin and death have no more power upon us. We live in the resurrected glory of God. That is life, life, life, life [Romans 6:6-9; Philippians 1:21].
The best way is to compare it. Look at a worldling. Let’s take an extreme one. Let’s take an extreme worldling. And he says, “Life, life, oh, to live.” So he makes his way to the red light district, “Life, oh, an abounding life.” Or he makes his way to the junkie and the pusher; “Life, life.” And he gets high on drugs, “Life, man, living it up.” Or he makes his way to the saloon, “Life, life, life.” Life? Venereal disease; that’s life? And like epidemic proportions does it sweep the world and is now sweeping America. That’s life? The drug addict with his sallow complexion and his destroyed mind. That’s life? Or the drunkard lying in his own vomit; that’s life?
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live” [Galatians 2:20]. That’s life. That’s life. The old Saul dies that the apostle Paul might be born again. The old Saul was proud of the tradition of his fathers. He was proud of his zeal. And he was proud of his attainments among his peers. He even said: “I persecuted the church, and I wasted the people of God in good conscience” [Galatians 1:13-14; 1 Timothy 1:13]. Proud of his heritage; proud of his commitment but, when they brought him to Damascus, they were leading him by the hand [Acts 9:6-9; 22:11], the light of the glory in Christ that struck him blind, and out of the death of the old Saul, the new Paul came to birth.
It is so with us. When we look at death of Christ, the crucifixion of Christ, that’s not the death of just a man, another man dying for his own sins, who ought to die. No! This is our representative, such as we have in Congress. He votes for us. He is our representative. He is our great representative man: the Man, Christ Jesus. And when He died, He died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], and we died in Him [Galatians 2:20]. Any lawyer will tell you that, when a criminal is put to death, the book is closed. The state has no more accusation against him. He has died. The penalty is paid. So it is in Christ. He died for us and our sins and our shortcomings and our every weakness. All of it died, every false ambition and everything that is of self. All of it died. It’s gone.
And what we have now is the glory of the promise of the Lord in Christ Jesus. “The life I now live in the flesh”—we’re not talking about a maimed and mortified and mutilated life, but a full one in Christ Jesus. “For Him who loved me, and gave Himself for me” [Galatians 2:20]. What a beautiful way to say it, “who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” That is what moves the Christian God-ward and lifts him heavenward: “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me” [Galatians 2:20]; the constraining power of a deep, deep affection.
There was a North American Indian and he stood up said, “There came to our tribe a man. And he told us about and extolled the God of the white man. We told him to leave. And there came another man. And he said, ‘Don’t drink any more firewater, and don’t get drunk, and don’t lie, and don’t steal.’ We paid no attention to him. Then there came a man, and he told us about a God who came down from heaven to live among us, who so loved us that He shared our life, and died in our place for our sins, and who opened the door whereby we might be saved and enter heaven.” And the Indian said, “I could never forget it. I could never forget it.” Somehow I have that persuasion about all of mankind. Somehow, whether they accept it or not, whether they believe it or not, whether they’re saved or not, somehow, they can’t forget it.
The world is not the same since Jesus died in it. And this planet, somehow, is not like other planets, because here the foot of the cross was set and Jesus was raised beneath the sky. And we who have embraced the Lord can’t forget it. This He did for me: “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me [Galatians 2:20]. And we can’t forget it. It’s the love of Christ that constrains us” [2 Corinthians 5:14]. It’s the love of God that brings us to repentance [Romans 2:4]. It’s the appealing, atoning grace, and mercy, and sobs, and tears, and blood poured out of our Lord that brings us and binds us to God. I somehow can’t forget it.
We’re going to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing that song of invitation, you, to give your heart to Christ [Romans 10:8-13], to put your life in the fellowship of this dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25], to answer any call that the Holy Spirit would press upon your heart, while we sing this hymn, in the balcony round, you; on this lower floor, you; if God calls, will you answer with your life? If the Lord speaks, will you say yes? Make the decision in your heart now, and on the first note of this first stanza, come. In the balcony, down one of these stairways, on the lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front; make the decision now in your heart. And in a moment, when you stand up, stand up, or walking down that stairway, or walking into that aisle, “Here I am, pastor. I make it now. I’m coming now.” Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.