Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by John David Clark, Sr.
"I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live." - Galatians 2:20
Paul's phrase, "I am crucified with Christ", obviously does not mean that he was physically nailed to the tree upon which Jesus died. Paul was speaking of becoming dead to sin as Jesus was, so dead to it that evil men must hate and persecute us as they did him. Jesus was dead to sin and was hated by this world before he was crucified on the cross. Paul calls this dying out to sin - and being hated for it - a crucifixion. This is the crucifixion which Paul experienced and preached as being "crucified with Christ".
Crucifixion with Christ is attained only through suffering the same abusive persecutions which Christ suffered, for the same reasons he suffered them. To be crucified with Christ is to have our character crucified - by ungodly men, not by God. The phrase is not "crucified by Christ", but "crucified with Christ". God ordains it to happen, but He does not crucify anyone. He gives this work to the wicked, as Peter said: "Ye men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: him being delivered [into your hands] by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. . . " (Acts 2:22-23). Men hated Jesus because he was sinless (Isa.53:9) - completely dead to sin. His death to sin exposed the sinfulness of men, and they killed the Prince of Life, hoping to put out the Light.
This complete death to sin, this being crucified with Christ, is not accomplished merely by being born again. We are crucified with Christ only as we patiently endure reproach for righteousness' sake, as Jesus endured it. Even Jesus's complete death to self was accomplished only by the sufferings which he endured. We are told, "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect by the things which he suffered, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb.5:8-9; 2:10).
The apostles labored to prepare the saints to endure patiently the suffering which righteousness would bring. Peter wrote, "Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind" (1Pet.4:1). And again, "If, when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps" (1Pet.2:20-21). Said Paul, "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Phip. 1:29). And Jesus warned his disciples, "The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not Him that sent me." (Jn.15:20-21). The certainty of suffering for righteousness was not hidden from the saints; on the contrary, suffering was promised to them. The saints were exhorted to follow after righteousness, to endure with grace the suffering it would bring, and thus be crucified with Christ.
Our loving heavenly Father is determined to perfect us, to discipline us until we bear His image on the earth; and He will do this for us, if we will yield to His chastening hand. The only way for a follower of Christ to avoid being thus perfected with Christ is to refuse to receive God's chastisement. Yes, we have the option of quenching the Spirit in order to obtain a good name among men, but what will the harvest of that choice be?
Without exception, every one who is obedient to the Spirit of God will be misunderstood and hated. Paul, am I correct in saying this? "Yea, and ALL that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." There is no such thing as living a holy life and, at the same time, being highly esteemed by men. And the persecution which comes from following after holiness always serves one of two purposes: either it will drive us closer to God, or it will cower us into quenching the Spirit so that men will receive us into their company.
All of man's wars are in fact wars against God, but being unable to reach God, men fight with one another. All of man's hatred is hatred of God, but unable to find God, men hate one another. Whenever a child of God begins to exhibit the nature of the Father before men, this feuding world will unite in order to turn its fury upon that saint. The Spirit of Christ suggested this truth through the psalmist when he said, "The reproaches of them that hate thee fell on me" (Ps.69:9). Pontius Pilate and King Herod, for example, despised one another until their mutual contempt of Jesus brought them together. Their mutual hatred of Christ made them friends. They forgot their personal enmity when God, the real object of their hatred, was manifested in His Son. In the presence of Jesus, every man was forced to express the secret attitude of his heart toward the Father who sent him. And in the presence of a godly man or woman now, men are still forced to demonstrate their secret feelings toward Jesus, despite any appearance of religious devotion they may otherwise make (Mt.10:40).
"A man's enemies shall be they of his own household."
The most puzzling and painful element of the persecutions which we face as we grow into the knowledge of God is that our own brothers and sisters in Christ often lead the mob against us. And this is where the real crucifixion in spirit is accomplished. We are in truth crucified with Christ when by the word of God we "come unto our own, and our own receive us not." The leaders of his own people accused Jesus of being demon-possessed (Mt.12:24; Jn.8:48). One of his own disciples betrayed him. They were God's own people who demanded his crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. It is doubtful that the Romans would have considered Jesus to be any threat at all had not the children of Israel slandered him as an enemy of Caesar and of Rome.
The fiercest persecution which the ancient prophets, Jesus, and the apostles suffered was always from disobedient children of God. In virtually every recorded case of persecution in the Bible, wayward children of God guided the world in its hatred of those whom God sent to bless them. Eliashib, Israel's chief priest, greatly aided Tobiah in his efforts to overthrow the good work of Nehemiah. The Jews demanded that the Gentile Pontius Pilate crucify the Lord Jesus. Diotrephes, who opposed the apostles' authority in the congregation, was a believer in Christ. And believers led the rebellion against Paul's gospel, a rebellion which spread until the Gentile congregation as a whole forsook the one who had brought them to the truth. "All they which are in Asia be turned away from me", mourned the aged apostle (2Tim.1:15). The congregations in Asia included those of Ephesus, Colossae, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. At Paul's death, as he had predicted (Acts 20:29-30; 2Thess.2:3), the saints had fallen away from the truth of the gospel; and there it remains to this day.
That unclean religious spirit which at the close of the era of the apostles perverted the faith and blinded the eyes of the saints still blinds them. He is sitting in their temples, claiming to be God and exalting himself above all that really is God. Jesus has taught me that truth, as he taught my earthly father before me and as he has taught many others; but most of the children of God that I have met and to whom I have testified of the truth consider the truth to be wrong and Satan's lie to be right.
Even my natural brothers and sisters, "having loved this present world", have forsaken the truths which were taught us by our father. They have cast God's law behind them; they have joined various sects within Christianity - and they are held in very high esteem by Christians. They were the offspring of a prophet and a handmaiden of the Lord, and because that is true they are now an especially prized possession of the Devil. He treats them well, for he is concerned to make their prisons comfortable places in which to dwell. And much to his pleasure, they lead the chorus of ridicule and scorn against the right ways of God in Christ. By their examples, they have justified those who for years despised the truth and persecuted those few who dared to stand for it. Nevertheless, in order for me and others like me to please God and be crucified with Christ, I must bear their scorn and slander with meekness and mercy. To be crucified with Christ I must be able to say with him in all sincerity, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do."
Yes, crucifixion with Christ entails much more than experiencing rejection and scorn at the hands of the brothers; it also requires that we respond to such rejection with meekness and good will. Peter reminds the persecuted child of God of Jesus's example, "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (1Pet.2:22-23).
When those who ought to understand and love the truth do not understand it and hate us for bringing it, then we have the opportunity to turn the other cheek and let our old natures be thoroughly crucified with Christ. We expect the world to reject us; indeed, the world cannot receive us. The real test of humility is when our own family in Christ joins hands with the world (as the Jews joined hands with the Romans against Jesus) to ridicule, reject, and condemn us.
Annas and Caiaphas, the chief priests who engineered Jesus's arrest and trial, without any doubt bowed in prayer the next day and were thankful that the nation was delivered from Jesus. They continued worshipping God as they had been worshipping Him, continued living as they had lived. How justified they must have felt! They hated the light and, so, they called the light darkness and persuaded the people to believe them. May God save us from such blindness, and may He give us the faith and love to endure our cross, to despise the shame, and to humble ourselves to be crucified with our Lord.
Satan dreads the day when God will raise up His army of undefiled servants to feed His children with knowledge. He dreads the day that someone like Nehemiah arrives "to seek the welfare of the children of God". He earnestly labors to prevent the saints from coming to the knowledge of God, by offering high positions and honors to those who know the truth - if only they will not plainly reveal it to God's hungry children. There is spiritual wickedness in high places.
The day of deliverance is coming for the children of God, the day when the call of the Spirit will be heard throughout the kingdom, and the humble will gladly follow the Voice. "And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. And the heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly." And they shall "discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not" (Isa.32:3-4; Mal.3:18). Yes, praise God, when the gates to Babylon are opened at last to the saints, the humble will happily "come out from among them and be separate"; they will happily obey the Father and no longer "touch the unclean thing". And they will at long last be crucified with Christ - by the rebellious children of God who love this world and who have put their trust in the frail, whitewashed sepulchers of Christianity.
Our prayer for those still entrapped within its walls is "that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge" (Rom.10:1-2). "For had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1Cor.2:8). . . nor would they have persecuted those who walked in the same spirit.
Is there no other way, O God,
Except through sorrow, pain, or loss,
To stamp Christ's likeness on my soul -
No other way except the cross?
Through eyes grown dim with falling tears,
In vain some other path I seek;
"The cross is heavy, Lord," I pray,
"So heavy, and I am so weak."
"I cannot drink this bitter cup,"
I plead with passionate protest;
"Lord, let it pass - Thy hand lies hard
Upon me - I am sore distressed."
And then a voice stills all my soul,
As stilled the waves on Galilee;
"Canst thou not bear the furnace heat,
If 'mid the flames I walk with thee?"
"I bore the cross, I know its weight,
I drank the cup I hold for thee;
Canst thou not follow where I lead?
I'll give thee strength - lean thou on me."
And then with sudden shame, I fall
Low at His blessed, pierced feet,
"Lord, teach me how to follow Thee,
And make me for Thy service meet."
"I am not worthy e'en to lift
Thy hallowed cross - Thy pain to share;
Perfect through suffering, if Thou wilt,
So I at last Thy image bear."