A Spiritual Mystery
By Chip Brogden
Paul says something very peculiar in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Does Paul mean to say that he was physically there with Christ on the cross when Jesus died? We know that Jesus was crucified between two thieves and that Paul was probably not even present at the actual, historical event of the crucifixion of Christ.
Then, Paul says that even though he was crucified, he lives. Does Paul mean to say that he was raised from the dead with Jesus also? If so, why have we not heard about this before now? Finally, he says he is not really living at all, but Christ lives in him. To the natural mind, of course, this all sounds very strange. This is why we must discern spiritual things spiritually. It should be obvious that Paul is talking about something other than a physical crucifixion and a physical death, burial and resurrection.
We will soon discover that this experience of being crucified with Christ is not unique to the apostle Paul, but is true of every born-again child of God. Not only Paul, but all disciples of Jesus have been crucified with Christ.
How is this possible? The Bible says there is an invisible but very powerful union that exists between Jesus and all His disciples; they are one Body. It is a spiritual union. This spiritual union forms the basis of our relationship and fellowship with Christ. Jesus says, “I am the True Vine … live in Me, and I will live in you” (Jn. 15:1,4a). Jesus compares this union to a vine that has many branches. Each branch lives in union with the vine. The same life flowing in the vine is also flowing in the branches. Jesus says He is the True Vine, and we are His branches. This is a spiritual union. As branches, we can only grow and produce spiritual fruit so long as we continue to live, dwell in, abide and be part of the Vine. So then, union with God is not the reward for spirituality; it is the basis of spirituality.
With this analogy we can now understand what Paul means when we look at some of his other statements. He tells the Corinthians that “He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor. 6:17). To the Ephesians, Paul compares this spiritual union to the union that exists between a man and a woman when they are married: “And the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:31b,32).
Certainly this is a great mystery. How God is able to make us one spirit with Jesus is beyond human knowledge. But this we know: however it is accomplished, it has its beginning in the cross. The cross is the starting point of our union with Christ. In the cross, God sees us in the place of Christ and sees Christ in the place of us. That is to say, in the cross, all our sinfulness is attributed to Christ, and all His righteousness is attributed to us. How wonderful for us — but how terrible for Him!
Chip was born and raised in North Carolina and currently lives and writes in upstate New York with his wife, Karla. Connect with his blog and share your thoughts at www.ChipBrogden.com