TAKE IT TO CALVARY
By Adauto Rezende
The letter of Paul to the Galatians is one of the most powerful teachings to explain the greatest gift of God to humanity. The letter is a parallel shorter version of the epistle to the Romans to correct the disciples and to confront the impostors that had infiltrated among them. The receivers were experiencing doctrinal deviation because of these false teachers who brought a spiritual burden inside the churches. Paul had already previously discussed the matter with the other apostles and church leaders in Jerusalem (Acts 15).
He had shared among many other crucial teachings three things that they have to crucify in their Christian journey, and of course, the instructions extended to every follower of Christ in all generations.
For those who don’t know, crucifixion in the first century was capital punishment for convicted criminals. According to the three synoptic gospels, Jesus was crucified between two criminals. One of them publicly confessed and had agreed with the Roman court about their condemnation and sentence. He said: “We are punished justly (on the cross), for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23: 41)
Other important information about the crucifixion: It was one of the most dreaded and agonizing forms of execution in ancient times. It was likely the most painful death ever invented and is where we get our term “excruciating". The Roman Statesman and philosopher Cicero called it “the cruellest and disgusting punishment”. The apostle Paul used this horrendous form of punishment and death to illustrate how Christians have to deal with some spiritual enemies in order to live victoriously. He said that Christians have to crucify:
1. Self - σαρκί, (sarki)
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2: 20
The apostle says in the verse that our old self must die in order to understand the power of the gospel. According to the statement, Jesus gave himself for us, he voluntarily decided to die on the cross, even though he was the only person on the earth that had never sinned. Love was the reason why he did it. He loves sinners! When I surrender my old-self to the crucifixion and to death, it implies that: My religion, my good deeds, my egocentric acts are no longer the way to get divine forgiveness. When Jesus was bleeding on the cross, he who never broke God’s laws was receiving upon himself the sins of everyone who would turn to Him, as Paul stated a few verses before:
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Galatians 3: 13-14
“Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified." Galatians 2: 16
When I understand what He did, all my pride will be exposed. I will recognize that my heart was wicked and deceptive, I will recognize that I was lying to myself, I will recognize that I was a hypocrite, an actor who performed before people something that really was not who I was. Therefore; there is no other way, but to take the steps of the thief and recognize how great sinner I am and humbly admit that without Christ, I would be justly sentenced and punished eternally. Once I do it, like Paul, I will understand that my old self was placed upon Jesus on the cross.
Once my old-self is crucified, the life of Christ will dwell in me “But Christ lives in me.” This spiritual metamorphosis will make me a new creation. The old nature once crucified, Christ’s life will reflect on me. That is why the disciples were called “Christians” right in the beginning of the first-century church; they acted like Christ, talked like Christ, loved like Christ and served like Christ, for Christ was dwelling in them. He also can abide in you; however, the only way is to renounce yourself. There are people who have been in churches for years, who had memorized the Scriptures, some went to Bible College and seminars yet, there is no Christ-like character in their lives. They do all kinds of Theological training, however the old-self still very alive. They can make a pilgrimage trip to Israel, spend days fasting and read their Bible in three months, but when asked about the crucifixion of self they just don’t accept. Calvary is not part of their life!
“The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.” Before the crucifixion, I relied upon myself, in money, in fame, in political parties, in TV and Hollywood stars, in sports and many other gods. I was created to worship, therefore, after crucifying my old nature in Christ, my eyes, my ears, my heart and every other member of my body are completely reliant on the person of Jesus. For all my past idols became nothing when compared to my Saviour. They will all pass away, but the Lord stands forever.
“We have seen that God created a body for man, but He did not create the flesh. The body became the flesh by being corrupted. In the same way, the soul was created by God, but the self was not. The soul became the self by becoming fallen and rebellious. The source of the flesh is the body, and the source of the self is the soul.” (Witness Lee)
2. Flesh - Σάρκα (sarka) – Sinful nature
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." Galatians 5: 24-26
Paul continues to remind the Christians how their sinful nature or their flesh was crucified (past tense). As Christ lives in us (present tense), we now live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
He describes the passions and desires that the flesh delights to do in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit that should be visible in Christ’s followers:
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5: 19-21
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23
He also explains that there is a spiritual battle in the hearts of believers who now is no longer under the control of the flesh but became the sanctuary of God’s Spirit. Even though time comes when the old nature seems to get out of the cross and bring back its evil desires and passions, the Holy Spirit will battle against it helping the Christians to resist its cravings:
"For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Galatians 5: 17
“The lusts and the passions are the evil things of our fallen body. The flesh is the corrupted and transmuted body. This is the most proper definition of the flesh.” (Witness Lee)
3. The World - Κόσμος (kosmos)
In this context, the word implies the whole system of unspiritual and unchristian men and things.
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6: 14
Paul no longer boasts in Judaism, no longer boast in his Pharisaic works, no longer boast of being a circumcised Jew, no longer boast in his daily liturgies for all such things were part of his former world religion system. He said that all these rules and regulations were nailed to the cross of Christ. The only one who truly fulfilled the entire Law of Moses with all its precepts was Jesus.
Christ cried out before His last breath, “It is finished.” Again, the cross is the place to nail all man-made religion with its works. I will crucify any deed that tries to earn salvation! According to the Scriptures “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64: 6
The Latin term “Re ligare” ‒ the root of the word “religion” that means to connect or to bind (the idea that humanity could “rebind” themselves to God by working to get salvation). The false teachers were saying that salvation could not be obtained just by faith in Christ alone. They still had to keep some rituals such as circumcision, Old Testament celebrations and ceremonial laws. According to these false-teachers, the Galatians would not re-bind themselves to God unless:
“You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” Galatians 4: 10-11
“Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.” Galatians 6: 12
However, the apostle reminds the church that the only possible way to RE-BIND with God is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Not ours, but His work on the cross:
“Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2: 16
Jesus had said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14: 6
Paul combines salvation with a brief statement:
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” Galatians 3: 26-28
Saying this, I have to ask you:
Are you a child of God?
Have you put your faith in Christ Jesus?
Have you nailed your old nature on the cross of Christ?
Have you crucified yourself on the cross of Christ and have clothed your new self with Christ?
Have you been baptized in the water as a public confession of your faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross for your salvation?
To him be the glory!