|Volume 18 Number 12 December 2016||
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul understood what Jesus told His apostles in Matthew 16:24 when He said one must deny himself if he would follow Him. The term “deny” means to disown and renounce self, and to subjugate all works, interests and enjoyments to that of Christ and His will for us. He told the church in Philippi, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8). By saying this, Paul was not implying that he shunned all that one’s physical existence offers, but he meant that he would not let the material things of life take priority over spiritual matters. Spiritual principles guided his decisions and lifestyle in the flesh.
This attitude about life was true of Paul because he understood what happened when, in faith, he obeyed the Gospel. He had been crucified with Christ, something that happened in his past when he wrote to the churches of Galatia, but was still true in his present. “I have been crucified” is perfect passive in the Greek, indicating a past event with continuing results. The past event was being crucified with Christ when he was immersed. “Do you not know that as many of us as were immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into his death? We were buried together with him through immersion into death, in order that we also might walk in newness of life, in the same manner that Christ was raised from the dead by the splendor of the Father” (Romans 6:3-4 McCord Translation). Paul’s obedience in faith to the Gospel was transformational at how he looked at life and at how he lived life. As one person put it, “The old man was crucified together with Christ so that sin cannot have preeminence in a believer’s life” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament).
Paul knew from that moment on that his life would never be the same as it had been before. He was willing to risk himself for the preaching of the Gospel (Acts 9:18-23). He became an imitator of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) rather than a reflection of the world, and his goal was to become more and more like Christ. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” He forgot what was behind so that he might strain forward to what was ahead, the goal of eternal life (Philippians 3:13-14). He endeavored with everything in him to live the spiritual life, entrusting his soul to his faithful Creator and Redeemer (2 Timothy 1:12).
Paul was driven in his approach to Christian living because he knew and fully understood what was at stake. His efforts in Christ were not to earn his salvation, but rather because of his salvation in Christ. With all that God had done for him through Jesus, how could he do any less? As he himself would say, it was the grace of God that made him who he was (1 Corinthians 15:10).
God knows our frame (Psalm 103:14); He knows our weaknesses and the frailties that come with being human. However, He also knows what we can be in Christ. We must ask ourselves if we’re truly seeking to be more Christ-like, or do we live expecting God to just accept us no matter what? If we have died with Christ in immersion, should we not be living a new life, one of the Spirit, not of the flesh (1 Corinthians 3:3)? Paul showed us there is a difference between struggling against sin while relying on the grace of God to live spiritually and living in sin while relying on the grace of God to accommodate such a lifestyle. “How shall we who died to sin continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:2). Do we approach life like Christ, making our decisions based on the spiritual? Or, do we live as we please, not even considering the spiritual in our decisions and actions, believing no matter what that God is pleased? If we don’t think about the spiritual through the course of daily events, of necessity we live by worldly values. Does Christ intrude in your everyday living?
May we seek to have the same mindset Paul had about life, which is that today is all about eternity. May our union with Christ help us put to death sinful desires and to reflect His will in ours. Let us always examine ourselves to make sure where we stand and where we’re headed. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Gary C. Hampton
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Paul wrapped up his letter to Ephesus by reminding the brethren that they were fighting a battle. It is significant that the word translated “be strong” is in the passive voice, which indicates that Christ’s followers do not strengthen themselves but receive strength from the Lord.
Winning the battle will require each Christian soldier to put on the Lord’s armor since our enemy is the devil. The word for “devil” is diabolos, the chief of the demons who is a slanderous accuser. He is the leader of the enemy forces and seeks out any area of weakness to exploit (1 Peter 5:8). That is why we need God’s armor, not some of our own making. The Almighty knows exactly what we need to defeat the enemy and to win the victory.
The apostle saw God’s children in hand-to-hand combat with the forces of evil. “Wrestle” likely describes “two soldiers who in the midst of battle faced off one against the other for a very personal hand-to-hand combat” (Ray Summers, Ephesians: Pattern for Christian Living, 141). Paul was stressing the very personal nature of this battle for every Christian.
The seriousness of the battle should be seen in the nature of the opponent. Christians are fighting the devil and his whole organization of darkness. Wickedness is organized in its fight to overthrow Christ’s army. The “heavenly places” describe things beyond the ordinary or natural battlegrounds.
Satan has already challenged God and lost. He has been cast down from heaven, but he now fights in every other place, including the church (2 Peter 2:4; Acts 20:29-31). It is vital that Christians take all of this personally. The devil is trying to capture anyone that he can, including individual Christians (2 Timothy 2:23-26, 16-18; 2 Peter 2:17-22).